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A tale of two readers – why phonics is not for everyone

We’re used to phonics being the standard technique for teaching children to read these days. It’s by and large what schools rely upon, but, as with any system, it’s not for everyone.  I spoke to a mother recently who relayed an interesting contrast with her two daughters – one who thrives on phonics, and one who simply does not.

Claire spoke at length about the frustration and anxiety she experienced as her elder daughter, Sally, struggled to learn with phonics. From the early days in nursery it was noted that Sally was not engaged and often found excuses to go to the toilet or find something in her tray – anything but take part in the phonics session! Teachers all reassured Claire that in time it would start to make sense, but as Sally progressed through Reception and Year 1, her reading was no stronger and phonics was clearly becoming something of an anxiety-inducing mystery to her. “It just seemed to make no sense to her at all,” said Claire. “The lowest point was when she wouldn’t even look at a page in a book with me, such was her fear of failure”.

In the meantime, Sally’s younger sister Tara was thriving on her daily phonics sessions at school, and rapidly becoming a fluent and enthusiastic reader. “I could tell it was tough on Sally to see her little sister get by so effortlessly,” explained Claire.

By Year 2, Claire pushed the school for a dyslexia assessment for Sally and sure enough, she as diagnosed with mild dyslexia. It was a huge relief for Claire to know the source of the problem, but there was more frustration ahead. “Sadly, even though the school acknowledged the dyslexia, they did not have the capacity to help Sally read with any other technique than phonics. She gets extra reading help, but it’s still based on a system that makes no sense to her”.

It was by seeking alternative ways of supporting her daughter that Claire heard about Reading Revival and the matching and memory based learning is proving far more effective for Sally. What’s more, her heightened recognition of words and sounds and increased confidence about reading have supported her learning at school. While phonics will never be a logical or comfortable learning method for Sally, she is coping far better with it than ever before, and – we hope – will soon be as fluent and confident as her younger sister.