Wednesday 15 August 2012

This is a must-read letter from Reading Recovery teacher

" I am a Reading Recovery teacher. RR is based on more than 40 years of research and analysed data. It is proven to be cost effective. It works. The government knows it works. But it is not run as a business. RR's only purpose is to help children learn to read...

When we read we bring together 3 sources of information:
Visual, which means the words and letters and punctuation and layout etc
Structure, which means what is it possible to say in this language?
Meaning, does it make sense?

Children and adults who can read are using these automatically. When children learn to read, right from the start they are bringing together the 3 sources of information, as you well know.

When children who can read make mistakes on the phonic screener it is probably because their brains are overriding the nonsense; they are trying to make meaning because that is what reading is.
Lots of the readers at my school did not do well at the phonics screener. The head teacher was shocked - it is a high achieving / outstanding school in all other aspects. She said "But I can read and I know what the non-words say?" I said, "Yes but you are not 6 years old and you were expecting it. You are maybe more used to the world trying to catch you out?"

And from now on there will be even more phonic drilling, so that next year the schools will get 'better results', and the govt will say, 'Told you so, phonics is the answer'. We (but not me!) are going to be teaching children to deliberately switch off the use of structure and meaning and just decode using visual information like a robot can do.

At the moment the children get 30 minutes phonics a day and 10 minutes, if they are lucky, a WEEK reading with their teacher. They hardly ever get read to, just for the fun of it. Teachers don't have time for this. Given many children's impoverished oral language, these days, research shows that little children should be getting 3 stories a day. This never happens. Never.

Although I would make very different use of the time, 30 minutes phonics a day does have some relevance to real reading of real words, but is now going to morph into even more time spent on learning to sound out nonsense words.

Interestingly, the contract for supervising ECaR which also looks after Reading Recovery, has been removed from the Institute of Education and given to a university (Edge Hill) that is also now going to be responsible for pushing phonics schemes at us. The phonics people have been working very hard to squash RR and it looks as if they have done it. RR is trademarked and copyrighted etc, so is not available for someone to step in and make £millions out of it...
£millions have already been made out of phonics but it would seem the train is not yet full of gravy.

My soul is destroyed."