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Phonics work, simple as ABC

As one of the UK's most long standing publishers of synthetic phonics materials, we welcome the increased attention given to the use of phonics in improving literacy levels in Scotland and abroad.

Further, we are delighted to see the results of improved teaching methods on reading levels at all ages and welcome the Government's approach. We are, however, not surprised. We recommended teaching at least three or four letters a week many years ago. The Scottish research is to be commended for finally proving the benefits of a "making phonics first and fast"

approach.

However, we take issue with the comments from Joan Ruane in your item on St Michael's primary in Dumbarton, about the use of a "characterful" approach to phonics being detrimental to some children's learning (TESS, March 24).

She claims that children "got stuck on the characters", but research confirms embedded pictorial mnemonics facilitate learning the plain letter shapes. Further, the Rose Report in England lists among accepted good practice the use of pictures "like an apple in 'a' and a snake in the 's'

to assist in letter recognition".

We have had 30 years of success producing character and story-based learning materials and now sell in over 100 countries worldwide.

Further, our ABC book is a best seller and sales topped the million mark a couple of years ago. Thousands of schools now use our books, games, software and audio-visual products to help children learn. If it didn't work, we wouldn't still be here banging the phonics drum. Several other phonics programmes have now followed our lead and are using a "characterful approach" too.

One final point. One of our characters, the Wicked Water Witch, was a powerful teaching tool, instantly ensuring no child confused 'm' and 'w'

for a start ('m' can't hold water). We replaced her with Walter Walrus and updated a few of our other "living letter" characters. We also introduced fresh teaching strategies and, as of this month, two new CD-Roms to help facilitate the embedding of ICT in literacy teaching and learning.

Mark Wendon

Managing director

Letterland International Ltd

Cambridge

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