Long-term literacy vision
The English Spelling Society
Media release. Sept 10
From: Allan Campbell, Christchurch, member;
Jack Bovill, chair, London
Labour leader David Shearer sees the provision of work for their parents as the ultimate solution to the problem of hungry school children, but acknowledges the immediate need is to provide school meals for them now.
To be consistent, will he carry this thinking over to the problem of illiteracy?
In the short term, to meet the needs of those learners who have failed to master reading we need programs such as Reading Recovery, which he wants to extend to all schools. We do have literacy problems that need immediate attention.
But if all we do is deal with symptoms, trying to fix what is broken, we are not dealing with what is causing the breakage. We will be bemoaning unsatisfactory literacy levels for generations. We need also to be looking at causes.
Poverty, home environment, and teaching methods are some of them. But we keep on avoiding the elephant in the classroom, our English spelling non-system. The subject we are teaching is faulty; not just the exterior influences.
Studies show that languages that have sensible, consistent, no-surprise spelling systems have their children reading confidently in their first school year, and they are able from then on to master new words unassisted. This is what we need.
For a long-term solution we should look at ways to gradually adjust and upgrade our wacky spelling so that it has similar benefits for our learners, and there is little or no need for such costly remedial schemes as Reading Recovery.
Let's start looking beyond the fix and to the prevention
of a problem that troubles all English-speaking