That isn’t the way their brains work. They are creative big-picture thinkers and breaking words do into tiny bits just doesn’t make any sense to them. When these same children manage to accidentally start recognising words, the skill all fluent readers have, words then have meaning. Word recognition must be included in any reading programme, because the last thing we want is to have children stuck in phonics, for life.
Evidence shows that drilling children in phonics may have improved reading levels for many but it is a hard slog, with loads of repetition, to reach the eventual goal of word recognition, whilst leaving many by the wayside feeling embarrassed, stupid, exhausted and frustrated. Worse still they maybe bullied and there are concerns about mental health, with overload of the frontal cortex. Word recognition is carried out in the Word Form Area at the back of the brain adjacent to the Occipital lobe; a much more restful activity.
When you come to spelling only 46% of the English language is spelled correctly according to phonics, unlike languages like Italian that is an exemplar for phonics. In addition, it is impossible to spell homophones correctly with just an auditory queue.
So why are our children not explicitly taught to pictures words at the same time as learning phonics? I asked a county’s Chief Educational Psychologist this question many years ago: “Why don’t we tell every parent that those who are good at literacy can picture words in their mental images?” She refused the answer. The reality is that we are not teaching out teachers the simple skills to check and develop a student’s mental images, preferably from school entry or before, and secondly, she didn’t have this skill. Teaching these skills only takes minutes.
Teachers can take a quick course as home study during the summer holidays and be geared up to teach phonics and mental imagery in parallel from the start of the new term. The school will save money on special support, whilst improving the children’s confidence and their results.