A Step at a Time
My Personal Preference
I have always struggled with my literacy skills. I wasn't illiterate, I simply 'got by'.
My husband has been entertained for years with my attempts at decoding signs or general text. Don't get me wrong, he was never cruel, he just simply couldn't understand why I seemed to find reading so difficult. I suppose it does seem strange, that a person who is not obviously impaired can struggle to do something that to others is natural.
Have you ever read the article: 'Thank You Whole Language'? If you haven't, I recommend that you do. Not only is it light-hearted and entertaining, but I think it gives an insight into how some people struggle with words. My husband could have written this article about me.
My literacy struggle is a shame, I think, for me and the child that I was, but also for my children. It meant that as a mother I felt I had to avoid reading books to my own children (especially in public).
I always remember the times when I would come across an unknown word and I would strategically speak to one of the children about something else (distracting everyone from the story including any strangers), then return to reading the book although missing out the offending word. Either that or I would lower my tone to say that word then carry on as naturally as I could!
I suppose that is the thing, isn't it? That over the years I have had to use tricks to get by.
When I read for pleasure (which wasn't all that often), I never did know the person's name - the character was simply 'B' (the initial letter). I could always picture the person, but I didn't know the character by name. I also missed out a lot of the descriptive or richer language. I simply didn't know what those words were, but I got the gist of the story.
Now some people might say that was alright, that understanding the story is what reading is about. That reading isn't about being able to read accurately or to read all of the words. Some will even say that good readers do not read every word. That may be true, but the reality is that for me, my missed words were not a choice. Each of those words caused me anxiety and every one of those words put another dent in my confidence. They were not an example of my proficient reading skills, but instead a warning that all was not well.
I think that going hand-in-hand with my weak literacy skills is my weak pronunciation and restricted vocabulary. My pronunciation was affected, I think, by the fact that I had never decoded a word. I didn't actually know how it looked. I could probably picture the initial letter of the word, but I couldn't picture the whole word like others could. Instead I had to rely on my memory for how the word sounded and I'm obviously not very good at that!
As far as my vocabulary went, it is difficult to expand one's vocabulary when you are unable to read the words! If you cannot read new words you must rely on others to enrich your vocabulary for you.
So, having struggled myself it was important to me to ensure that my own children didn't have to experience the same anxiety I had when it came to reading. I wanted them to read well and most of all, to be confident readers. To be able to read every word, any word if they wanted or needed to. In a nutshell, I wanted them to have the skills and knowledge that I didn't.
So, this is where my synthetic phonics journey began, when it came time to homeschool my eldest son I found out that how I was taught wasn't the only way. That I had options, so I researched and researched and decided on synthetic phonics as the way to break the family literacy failure cycle.
My eldest son, a child I knew was at risk, went on to learn to read and spell very well and just as exciting was the fact that I re-taught myself! So now, after 35 years, I can read every word or any word I want or need to. Of course, I must admit that I have enjoyed correcting my husband from time to time on his incorrect decoding or alphabetic code knowledge. It is now my turn to be entertained!
It is just a shame that I had to wait 35 years for the skills and confidence. However, to look on the bright side, better late than never and I have saved my children from the same fate.
What I like about synthetic phonics:
* It teaches how our language works.
* There is no guessing.
* It's preventive and prevention is far better on one's self-esteem than intervention.
* You learn how to read and spell at the same time.
* There is security and confidence in knowing how something works before being asked to do it.
* The favourable statistics.
* Children are not exposed to words that they do not have the knowledge to decode, therefore they are constantly successful.
* It just makes sense.
* It can be fun to teach synthetically and learn synthetically.
Copyright © 2006 - 2012 Kelly Rowlingson All Rights Reserved
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The Great Reading Disaster: Reclaiming our Educational Birthright
A book setting forth in plain language where the crazy
ideas of teaching reading have come from and their effect on our society.
by Mona McNee and Professor Alice Coleman
"What synthetic phonics does is explicitly teach them the sounds and rules of our language. Teach them step-by-step how the alphabetic code works starting from the simple code up to more complex code. It's like building a brick wall - brick by brick - until the child knows all of the sounds and rules of the English language."
TEACHING THE ALPHABETIC CODE
There are different ways to teach the code, some of them quite unique.
The majority of the well known programmes available are quite similar. They may have their own unique style or method of delivering the information, but in general lessons are based around the child/ren learning a new sound and practising blending (to read) and segmenting (to spell).
Once the child has the required level of sound knowledge (which will differ from programme to programme), decodable books may be introduced. Details of programmes that are available can be seen on our 'Literacy Curriculums' page.
A slightly different approach from the norm is teaching children the alphabetic code through reading books, like BRI.
One programme that I think does stand out as being particularly unique is Robert Boden's Phondot.
Whilst I haven't tried it, I do find it intriguing. We all know that the English alphabetic code is complex, mainly because each letter or combination of letters (digraphs or trigraphs) in our language do not just respresent one sound. Some do, but many have different sound options, such as: the letter 'o' making the sounds: cot, cone and oven (depending on your accent, of course!).
Robert's system has re-coded our symbols, in a discrete way and without re-spelling, so that each symbol only represents one sound. Visit his site through this link.