Phonics works. New research suggests that sounding out words is the best way to teach reading
Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBU) in Cambridge have published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, contributing to an intense debate about how best to teach children to read.
Researchers from Royal Holloway and CBU compared whether learning to read by sounding out words (a teaching method known as phonics) is more effective than focusing on whole-word meanings. In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans.
The paper describes how people who are taught the meanings of whole words don’t have any better reading comprehension skills than those who are primarily taught using phonics. In fact, those using phonics are just as good at comprehension, and are significantly better at reading aloud.
The full paper can be read here – Journal of Experimental Psychology: Taylor, J.S.H, Davis, M.H., Rastle, K. (in press) Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography.
A news report in the Times Education Supplement can also be read here.