February 21, 2022
Reductionist, dysfunctional approach
That some children come to school as fluent readers is not recognised by Science of Reading advocates. These children arrive at school with no formal teaching in phonics. Yet, they are subjected to simplistic phonics activities in packaged kits focusing on decoding with very basic decodable books, designed for less advanced readers. It is difficult to draw any meaning from these texts at all.
This phonics heavy approach is reductionist, and does not provide emerging readers with the functional strategies to make meaning from texts. It elevates one aspect of our language acquisition above all others when readers need to be able to interconnect meaning forms. If we want to grow a generation of learners who are literate, there are many ways educators and parents can achieve this with a variety of strategies that include phonics, but do not over-cook it.
The research on this approach up to and including 2022 is not as glowing as the Swain article suggests. While various findings reveal improved skills in phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge (resulting from word screening tests, not reading tests) it has also revealed there were ″no better outcomes on reading whole passages of text″ for these same young readers.
Parents and educators should be wary of the term ″science of reading″ portraying it as a one size fits all, silver bullet view of reading, while misrepresenting either balanced literacy or whole language and blaming these approaches for failed reading achievement. Attacking these methodologies, while ignoring the influences of poverty and confusing teaching students with special needs (such as dyslexia) with teaching the general population of students remains a convenient omission.
Alan Wright, Mornington