Why Phonics: The Science of Reading

Teaching children to read has been researched for many decades. The evidence from all the scientific studies has provided guidelines for how to most effectively teach reading. This can be summarised by a model called the Simple View of Reading.

Teaching children, explicitly, the link between the letter on the page and the sound it represents is fundamental to reading. A reader needs to understand that writing is a way of recording oral language. A child could learn to memorise every single word they come across, but this is very inefficient. Given a child in foundation is exposed to around 5,000 print words in a year, and over 70,000 by the time they finish school, you can see that memorising each individual word is not only a daunting task, but likely unachievable.

Instead, by teaching the child the 44 sounds (phonemes) of English, the 26 letters (graphemes) and the 89 main combinations of these graphemes will give the child the skills they need to read new words they come across in their lifetime.

Extensive research tells us that initially, learning the code is quite a draining and time-consuming task. However, after the first few years of schooling, the cognitive load in our brains is lessened, and children become more efficient readers, writers and spellers.

At Little Learners Love Literacy®, we are passionate about setting children up for success from the start. That means teaching them, explicitly, the alphabetic code and building on that knowledge in a systematic way, moving through all the common graphemes efficiently.

We are passionate about literacy research and use the evidence to inform our practice and resources. For further reading please look at the following:

Websites and Blogs

Key papers

  • (2000) National Reading Panel
  • (2005) The National Inquiry into Teaching of Literacy
  • (2006) The Rose Report
  • (2016) Read about it
  • (2016) Why Phonics
  • (2018) Ending the Reading Wars

Key Academics

  • Kathleen Rastle
  • Anne Castles
  • Kate Nation
  • Louisa Moats
  • Stanislas Dehaene
  • Yana Weinstein

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