Lost in translation

31st May 1996 at 01:00
There appears to be an omission in Sue Palmer's otherwise excellent article "Heard instincts" (TES, May 17). Phonological awareness can be well developed but not along the lines visualised by their teachers. Years ago, teaching in inner London, I was faced with an eager seven-year-old demanding: "How do you spell 'snite', Miss?". After some probing I found she had written "lar" and was waiting for "snite" (child-speak for "last night".

Many key stage 1 teachers deal with similar demands frequently, recognising that the first steps along the road to meaningful reading, writing and mastery of phonics is to reconcile child-speak (often a reflection of home-speak), with the printed words and sounds in the school "reading" books.

Laying foundations from these personal starting points involves time, patience and understanding with sometimes little to show after a year or more, but then foundations are not visible but vital. As Sue Palmer states, "schools often start from a lower base-line at pre-school experience". The pundits, so ready to condemn reading standards, should realise that schools often have to cope with home-speak well beyond pre-school - old habits die hard.

JULIA MATTHEWS 50 Sydney Road Bexleyheath, Kent

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