No pleasure in a diet of phonics

29th November 2002 at 00:00
I AM surprised that the Government feels there is insufficient emphasis on phonics at infant level (TES, November 22). The literacy strategy makes clear that phonics is an integral part of the strategy.

Early literacy support and additional literacy support place great emphasis on phonics. Some colleagues have expressed concern about the pace of phonic teaching, commenting that they feel pressurised to move on to the next phoneme before the previous one is grasped.

Difficulties arise in Years 1 and 2 as the gap between the least and most able widens, perhaps explaining why phonics teaching in Reception classes is perceived as better, though perhaps also due to the dreary progression in phonics materials.

I feel the pendulum is swinging too far in the direction of phonics, just as some time ago it swung in the direction of real books.

Then, as now, I subscribe to Sue Palmer's view, that a balanced approach is needed taking account of differing learning and teaching styles.

The literacy hour has succeeded in bringing in critical analysis of texts for younger children and improved teaching of grammar and the writing process, yet however well we teach the mechanics of reading and writing, it is to no avail if children are not motivated to read and write for pleasure. The literacy strategy fails to provide for this.

Middle-class, affluent parents provide this motivation at home. Struggling and disinterested readers often come from homes where there is no such help. Books may be sent home but they come back unread, get lost, are torn by the baby or even eaten by the dog!

Sadly, instead of providing poor readers with exciting reading and enriching oral language through stories, drama, role-play and theatre visits it is suggested we increase their diet of phonics.

Christine Lees

13 Islestone Court

Berwick-upon-Tweed Northumberland

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