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More phonics or less for teaching reading?

MEDIA RELEASE 21 July 2003

More phonics or less for teaching reading?

The use of phonics to teach children how to read is called into question by international research undertaken by Victoria University’s School of Education in collaboration with overseas colleagues.

Dr Brian Thompson, Senior Research Associate in the School, says his findings show interesting differences between New Zealand adults and a sample of adults in the UK who have been taught by phonics.

“It appears more phonics teaching at school can interfere with the subsequent long-term development of some more advanced aspects of reading skill,” he says.

“New Zealand adults who were taught reading without phonics at primary school are found to have better reading skills for unfamiliar words, and especially those with the more complex letter-sound patterns of English.

“These New Zealand adults were compared to a matched sample of adults from a region of the United Kingdom who had received far more phonics teaching at primary school.”

Dr Thompson says his research will undoubtedly bring a new perspective to opposing community opinions on the use of phonics as a way of teaching reading. In recent years these strongly held opinions have entered the political arena of educational policy.

His findings will be presented in a public seminar at Victoria University of Wellington School of Education on Thursday 24 July, 12.10pm-1pm in Room E101, Education Prefabs, Gate 6, Kelburn Parade.


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