Phonetically Supporting Young Readers

Typically, Eduflack looks at education issues through a policy or a reform or a communications lens.  But I’m also fortunate enough to be parent.  A parent of a first and a second grader.

Last week was Back to School night at the kiddos’ school.  One of the most refreshing documents I’ve seen in quite a while came from my daughter’s first grade teacher (a “boy teacher,” she keeps reminding me).  In preparing parents for how they can support their children’s path to reading, he offered the following letter:
“Der Parints,
Az ur child brings hom riting 4 the frst tim, doo not b srprizd at the spelling. The inglish langwij iz a confuzing langwiz 2 lrn. Insisting that stoodents uz ‘correct’ spelling nhibits thair dzir and abilite 2 rit. We aftn uz ‘phonetic’ speling in r wrk.
Az parints, u can hlp ur child bi praising awl thair riting. Let ur child red thair riting 2 u. Displa thair riting around ur hows. No that az ur child bcums fumilyr with the inglish langwij throo reding and riting, he or she wil mak the tranzishun to ‘correct’ speling.
Thank u 4 ur suport,”
Kudos to my daughter’s teacher and all of the other educators out there who help in this way.  While such a letter may confuse some parents, it is just the sort of focus we all need to remember the reading and writing process, to support a phonics-based instructional approach, and to ensure our children become strong readers and writers.

2 thoughts on “Phonetically Supporting Young Readers

  1. I don’t think phonics-based approaches work with every child. I taught my older autistic children to read sight-say. They simply never learnt (or rather never were able to learn) to sound words out.My daughter is different. She is learning to sound words out, and now I run into the difficulty where I forget even what the rule might be. Yes, “igh” says I. But what rule “have” or “said” follow, I could not tell you. I have a BA in English from Wittenberg, and cannot sound words out like my five-year-old. So I’m not being argumentative, but I am saying phonics isn’t for everyone. I think honestly we need more studies on how children learn, what the most effective methods are for certain subgroups (girls, autistics, or whathaveyou).PS. Did you notice that the teacher’s “phonetic” spelling is really more texting than phonetics? Because my daughter will write “fr” for four, not the number.

  2. According to the research, a scientifically based, phonics focused approach works with about 95 percent of children.  But you are correct.  It doesn’t work for everyone.  But when one looks at the numbers, and more than a third of children aren’t reading at grade level, I’d take the 5% instead of the 35% below grade level any day.

    And yes, I did notice some of the texting shorthand (thankfully my now six year old isn’t texting yet).  

    I’m all for more studies on how children learn, as long as we are clear we are looking at instructional approaches and not philosophies.  That was always the challenge in the phonics versus whole language debate.  Whole language is merely a philosophy.

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