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Time for a truce

The whole word versus phonics debate over the best way to teach a child to read has raged for many years now. However, the one thing we do all agree on is that we want children to learn as confidently and enjoyably as possible, so why don’t we lay down our weapons and collaborate?

I’ll admit this sounds like a naïve dream. On one side we have those who passionately advocate a phonics based approach, breaking down the words into sounds, teaching these and once the child has learned the sounds, constructing words using these phonics building blocks.

In the other corner we have those who insist that a whole word approach is most effective, teaching children to recognise words by sight, because many English words don’t follow phonetic rules. We snipe at each other, citing examples of when our preferred method has triumphed as evidence to why the other method should not be used.

And never the twain shall meet.

But what if we did meet in the middle? Let’s start with what we know. We’ve all got examples of when our method works, so it stands to reason that there must be merit in both the methods. Also, when you look at it, both methods aren’t exactly poles apart because they both require children to memorise chunks of letters, albeit in sound chunks or word chunks.

So why can’t we be allies? If our method works with a child, then great. If the child doesn’t respond in the way we’d hope, rather than do more of the same, why don’t we test-drive another method? We don’t have to fight exclusively for one side.

Let’s pride ourselves on being experts in teaching children to read, and not confine ourselves and our children to one camp or another.

Just think how far we could move literacy forward with all the tools available at our disposal. I’m game if you are?