The main literacy problem in English-speaking countries is the irregularity of English spelling

Masha Bell's picture
The only way to end the never-ending reading wars in Anglophone countries is to improve understanding of how English spelling makes learning to read and write exceptionally difficult.

In the rest of Europe nobody ever considers using anything but phonics for teaching reading, because with phonically reliable spellings, such as 'keep, sleep, deep', phonics works. It cannot do so with the likes of 'only, once, onion.' or 'do so'.

Some European languages, such as French, are quite tricky to spell too (e.g. ou, nous, tout, choux), but no other alphabetically written language poses the decoding difficulties of English (as detailed on my EnglishSpellingProblems blog and the Sight Words page of my website).

They ensure that no teaching method can make significant and lasting improvements to overall reading standards, because for roughly 1 in 5 children, they simply make learning to read too difficult. With lots of individual help, lasting many years they can learn to read a little too, but never proficiently or with much understanding. Greater use of phonics cannot remedy this.

Teachers themselves need to understand this more fully and then push much harder to make government ministers aware of the problem. They should be making lists of the words that keep tripping children up in their efforts to learn to read, highlight the tricky bits in them and send them to Mr Gove.
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