Mr 6 loves his bedtime story. During the school year, five days out of seven he has a book from school to read. On the other two days we have tended to read books that are beyond his ability so that he still gets read to rather than having to do all the work himself. He has progressed really well through the school reading scheme and is keeping up with what he ought to be reading. He can read some quite tricky words and all is well. He even passed the imaginary words test with flying colours.
Since the summer holidays started we have been reading more of his own books, and concentrating on the ones which he has to read himself so that come the Autumn he has not lost any ground. Yesterday he was obviously feeling lazy and picked ‘Pat Naps’ as his book. Those of you familiar with synthetic phonics, particularly those who have been through the jolly phonics system, might have clicked that that is one of the very first books a child ‘should’ read. The first sounds to be taught are S A T I P and N. This book contains only those letters and no page is more difficult to read than the title page. Mr 6 first read it about a year and a half ago.
Fine, I thought, let him read what he wants. He read the easy book. It was an eye opener. He reads the books at his official level quite fluently, but picking up this one he was straight back to P-A-T Pat! N-A-P-S Naps! It is as if his brain sees the more complex words as ones to be read, but the simple ones, the ones he first met, as a series of sounds to be decoded then blended. It is now a bit of a worry to me that learning using synthetic phonics might have done him more harm than good.
I am always a bit concerned when the powers that be decide that one method of teaching is the best and therefore only one to be used. Anyone who has more than one child knows that the only certain thing is that no two children, genetic similarity and upbringing notwithstanding, are the same. That makes me worry when all a teacher’s experience and knowledge is considered nothing and orders flow from above as to how every child in the country should be taught.
I can believe that synthetic phonics works, and works well, for a large proportion of children. I can also believe that some children learn better in other ways, and the focus on synthetic phonics to the exclusion of all else may cause problems for those children. Luckily I know that reading at home and being aware of where those issues are will help to get round them. Tomorrow night we will probably be reading about Sam’s Pot.