Phonics wasn't always taught as well as it might have been decades ago but, despite this, it made readers and writers out of us. Today we have many excellent phonic resources to choose from.
That it was demonised and made into a scapegoat has been a tragedy. In reality, there is no reading war.
A war requires 2 opposing forces - 2 philosophies (ideologies), which Phonics is NOT.
Phonics is ideally suited to the visual memory development, and cognitive capacity of young learners, who think in a qualitatively different manner to older learners.
Phonics allows us to learn a large number of words in a very short time frame. Phonics also allows us the luxury of 100% accuracy. (no need to ‘guess’)
Why would we turn our backs on the code and insist on making learners reinvent the wheel with the wrong set of tools?
We have the power to change this. We can change teacher training in the primary sector tomorrow, with a particular focus on infants at the learning to read stage.
There is an optimal window of time for the development (in the brain) of what is referred to as the ‘letterbox’ or ‘word formation’ area.
That optimal time is Prep to grade 2/3.
The later Phonics is introduced the more difficult it is for the learner.
Note: Whole Word and Phonic approaches are competitive in the early stages of learning to read. An eclectic/balanced classroom disadvantages early learners, some more than others.
A Phonics First and only approach offers the learners a HUGE advantage.
See the Clackmannanshire study.
Phonics is an ideal match for infant cognitive development. It is structured, sequenced, involves practice and consolidation and doesn’t require a high visual memory.
Phonics suits the largest cohort of students within any infant classroom.
It is also a great ‘leveller’, closing the performance gap between girls and boys - and between advantaged and disadvantaged students (the socio-economic gap).
Sadly, many teachers are ill-equipped to teach phonics as the majority of teacher trainers wilfully omit this particular skill set from their teacher training.
The above is cognitively appropriate for early learners.
This will be built on piece by piece, practiced & consolidated.