Traditional letter sounds

28th March 1997 at 00:00
Experiencing so many pendulum swings from 1963 when I taught West Indians who'd learnt to read by a letter name method, I feelAlan Davies and Denyse Ritchie (Primary and Pre-school, TES, March 14) have a strange blind faith in the power of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Even if the SCAA does decree that letter names and not letter sounds should be taught, a couple more generations of parents and grandparents will go on teaching letter sounds.

Many young children will continue to try to use these strange and arbitrary sounds. The main problem is that many parents think that the consonantal letter sounds are the same as the consonants as in continuous speech.

Teachers of young children should understand the urgent need to re-educate and put great emphasis on the fact that these traditional "letter sounds" are, as Davies and Ritchie point out, like buh and cuh - and therefore identical to the first syllables of banana and canal.

In other words, a consonantal "letter sound" has two phonemes, consonant plus vowel, and is not simply the consonant as in continuous speech.

This explains why it's so hard for many young children to get from letter sounds to words, however regularly the words are spelt.

JOHN ASHBROOK 19 Victoria Avenue Didsbury Manchester.

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