Support home-grown reading aid

1st March 1996 at 00:00
I was at the Birmingham Education Show in March '95 when I first saw THRASS - the handwriting, reading and spelling sequence - programme which, along with Reading Recovery, has generated letters recently.

As an experienced teacher I was interested in the approach that Alan Davies was taking in the teaching of literacy skills. Since the exhibition, having used the programme myself, I have learned a great deal about teaching language skills, centred around the 44 speech sounds (phonemes) of spoken English and the letters and letter combinations used to represent them (graphemes).

THRASS, a clearly-explained and simple approach to teaching the building blocks of spoken and written English, must be applauded as a significant education resource. What is more, the programme is a significant educational resource developed in Britain.

The results of the Sheffield project on THRASS drew attention to the "substantial gains" made by the children and concluded that "Almost without exception, the pilot teachers felt that THRASS should be used as an early intervention approach where the gap between children encountering reading difficulties and their peers is not too wide."

Long-term evidence from here and from New Zealand (TES, August 25, 1995) actually indicates that about one third of children on the Reading Recovery programme fail.

Why continue to spend millions of pounds on schemes that have been used without resounding success in other countries, especially when short-term evidence on THRASS results in one of your own headteachers referring to some non-readers' progress as "phenomenal"?

With regards to Dr Hurry's letter (TES, February 9), there is a "magic bullet" in the teaching of literacy skills and Britain holds the gun. In the not-too-distant future the THRASS programme will be seen as a significant international resource in the teaching of spoken and written English.

Many of the teachers attending THRASS courses would agree with the statement that "THRASS has clearly explained to me, for the first time, how to teach reading and spelling. I wish I had know about the programme when I first started teaching."

For myself - as the co-author of The THRASS primary special needs pack and knowing those children with whom I have used THRASS in Australia - I thank Alan Davies for continuing his long struggle to have the programme recognised.

Denyse Ritchie City Beach Western Australia

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