Success for the children who have "failed"

7th June 1996 at 01:00
I am writing in response to the letter entitled "Let teachers say the word on reading" (TES, May 17).

I am a special needs teacher and I work with children who are experiencing literacy problems. The misery and frustration of not being able to read, and of being left behind while their peers forge ahead, has already cast a significant shadow over these children. By the time they have gone through the requisite hoops in order to qualify for extra tuition, they lack self-confidence, are frequently depressed and may have behavioural problems.

Your correspondent may be surprised to hear that these children, who have already "failed" in the classroom almost always find success as a result of following a structured phonic programme. Moreover, they actually seem to enjoy the phonics that she infers are both barren and boring.

Phonics (the knowledge of letter sounds and blends) would be inadequate if taught in isolation, but has anyone suggested doing that? Phonics are used to teach word-attack skills, and it is essential that children have a working knowledge of them in order to decode new words and to become efficient spellers.

Phonics are certainly not over- used. In fact, there is much reason for encouraging them to be used more, in a structured programme that is an integral part of the language policy in every primary school. We are failing our children if we do not give them all the tools that they require for full literacy. Bring back phonics!

Jenny Head


Park Lane


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