PA & Phonics - Like Water & Sunlight
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
I met a woman who claimed that the flowers in her garden didn’t require water or sunlight to grow. Instead, she lovingly and attentively sang to them daily and, in response, her flowers flourished. She reluctantly admitted that her poor indoor plants didn’t fare as well on this diet of The Beatles, Taylor Swift and ABBA, but concluded that they must be in some way lacking and, sadly, incapable of thriving. When I ever so politely pointed out that, perhaps, all flowers do indeed require water and sunlight to grow, it’s just that the flowers in her garden were able to absorb these necessities by virtue of the fact that they were outdoors, she scoffed. Offended that I dared question her long-held belief in the benefits of flower singing and horrified that I could deprive my own flowers of the joys of music, she turned and walked away.
The Science of Reading tells us that both phonological awareness (PA) and letter-sound knowledge (phonics) are vital prerequisite skills to fluent reading; without them, a child will struggle to decode the words on a page. Although some children will pick up these skills seemingly by osmosis – like the flowers in the garden positioned perfectly to absorb the right amounts of water and sunlight – most will require explicit instruction (with varying degrees of intensity) in PA and systematic, synthetic phonics. No amount of bedtime stories or reading of predictable texts will help them develop these necessary skills, and depriving them of the evidence-based reading instruction that they so desperately need is no different to depriving a plant of water and sunlight. If a child fails to thrive as a reader, it is not because they are incapable of doing so, but rather, because they have been kept in the dark and denied the type of instruction they need to learn and grow.
The Science of Reading is not an ideology, but rather a body of research (the culmination of over 20 years of research by cognitive scientists), consistent in its findings, that explains how the brain learns to read.