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Skirmish on real-book territory

It was like old times to read Jeff Hynds, one of the more delightful cavaliers of the Real Books movement, having a go at me on the subject of phonological awareness (TES, June 14).

But in the light of all the recent research into phonics and children's reading, his quiz about how adults process words is unlikely to begin another skirmish in the reading wars.

It stands to reason that most adults don't sound out words - we're fluent readers, so we don't need to.

To paraphrase Nicholas Bielby, writing in this paper a couple of years ago, knowledge about phonics is like a ladder which children climb on their way to literacy and, once they've reached the top, they kick away.

Of course, it will help for all primary teachers to know quite a lot about the way the language works, so they are equipped to help their pupils climb that ladder - in fact, the more they know the better. But they don't need to get involved in dreary debates about how many phonic sounds can dance on the head of a pin.

That way madness lies.

SUE PALMER 11 St George's Road Truro Cornwall

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