Teaching phonetics will help students

I just read the New Haven Register article on teaching reading in New Haven. I am appalled that there is a question about the value of phonics as part of teaching reading. American English is 85% phonetically regular. This means that we should have direct instruction in phonics as part of the reading program.

I was in first grade during the “look/say” period. “Look, look, look! See Dick, see Jane! The method was repetition and it was inadequate. I learned to read anyway. At one point, it just “clicked” in my head.

I was a teacher, tutor and substitute in New Haven area schools. As a tutor, I taught phonics to children who needed help with reading and spelling. We used a systematic phonetics program, GFB, (Gallistel, Fischer, Blackburn) with excellent results. We taught rules for decoding words. Once the child had mastered a type of word (closed syllable, mute e, etc.), we did speed drills that made reading those words automatic. The children loved the exercises. We taught irregular words separately.

An example of an irregular word is “was”. A consonant-vowel-consonant word has a short vowel. It should rhyme with “a”, but it doesn’t.

In addition to phonics, we need to teach comprehension skills.

Teachers and parents should read aloud to children every day, even when children can read on their own, to increase their skills and encourage a love of reading.

Reading instruction programs go through phases. Teaching phonetics should never go out of fashion.

Jane Platt


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