War of Words goes on and on

6th May 2005 at 01:00
I read Huw Thomas's article "A clear road to reading recovery" and your explanatory Factfile on Reading Recovery (TES, April 22) with a sense of deja-vu. And this is strange, because my experience as a classroom teacher for 20 years and a private literacy consultanttutor for eight years has all been in Australia.

The War of the Words continues both there and here, and I shudder to see that in both places there still seems so little sense of the enormous waste of funding, training and, worst of all, time, which is being advocated by Mr Thomas. His request that funding be reinstated for Reading Recovery acknowledges that the programme is costly, that the specialised training of three-quarters of the teachers is now wasted, and that even at its best RR still leaves 10-20 per cent of struggling readers unrecovered, either by systematic exclusion, or by failing to provide them with the correct kind of early literacy training. The creator of Reading Recovery, Marie Clay herself, in Reading, the patterning of complex behaviour (1979), says: "The child who can analyse his own words into their sounds seems better equipped to write those words for which he does not already know the spelling form."

It would seem to any concerned and informed observer of the current debate, in both hemispheres, that the inclusion of a strong phonics-based programme must be included in any early literacy scheme worth the money and the time.

Clackmannanshire's project needs to be watched and evaluated. Another, Direct Instruction in Corrective Reading, published by McGraw-Hill, offers a model which is up and running, works with groups of children rather than the prohibitively expensive one-to-one of RR, and requires no expensive, or even cheap, training for the teacher who provides it.

Sally Baker PO Box 2041 Parkdale, Victoria 3195 Australia

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