The introduction of phonics study in Scotland and England since 1997 seems to have delivered some 17% rise in the number of children who can read functionally, but that has not silenced critics. The Guardian of 19/01 has an interesting article on the debate..
Basically, (a) phonics is a good approach provided it is coupled with encouragement, not imposed from the top. Duh? I thought schools were for encouraging kids to reach their full potential.
(b) No amount of phonics will help kids become good English language readers if they don't have access to books. Lack of access to books in English is not - in my humble opinion - just a matter of socio-economic disadvantage. It can be a matter of socialisation, of "protecting" the child from "outside" influences, of parents not seeing books as something good and enriching, etc. etc. Lets not be simplistic, ok?
(c) What happened to grammar?
(d) Teaching kids needs special people with special gifts. Such people are rare. In UK (and Australia), those who end up doing a BEd are usually those who didn't get anywhere else. They have been taught rubbish at school, and so will pass rubbish on. Sorry if I sound dismissive, but I speak from sad experience.
So.. back to basics. Buy kids books and educational toys. Send the parents back to school. Divide time spent between games on the computer and real hard-copy books. Expose the kids to various things, grow their vocabulary, couple hands-on stuff with theory. Kids are NEVER dumb. We are.
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