Current Literacy Research
In recent years a number of high profile enquiries have been carried out in English-speaking countries on the best way to teach children to read and write. These enquiries were stimulated by the apparent under-achievement of many children to gain basic literacy skills in mainstream teaching classrooms. The National Reading Panel report (USA, 2000), the Rose Report (UK, 2006) and the Australian National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL report, 2005) all reviewed evidence-based research on the way children learn to read as a way to improve literacy outcomes in the years ahead.
So what does the research say?
Each report concluded that a number of key approaches are more likely to be successful in producing good readers. Specifically;
- Teaching letter-sound correspondence in an explicit and structured programme so that "children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency" (NITL recommendation #2)
- Use of high-quality systematic phonic teaching approaches (such as Letterland) is to be encouraged
- A knowledge of phonemic awareness is a success factor in becoming a successful reader (Ehri et al 2001)
- Teaching of literacy should continue through schooling K-12
- Whole-school literacy plans are to be encouraged
- Ongoing teacher training and profesional development in literacy instruction is desirable
Here at EdSource we understand the importance of these findings as we see the children who have slipped 'through the literacy net' every day. We are outspoken on the need for enhanced trainng of early years teachers to understand and identify common speech and developmental conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and auditory processing disorders in their students so that early intervention by outside specialists can be put into place.
So what is phonemic awareness?
Typing phonemic awareness into a search engine and you will find many excellent definitions but our favourite is "The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words" (http://mdk12.org/instruction/curriculum/reading/glossary.shtml). It includes the ability to distinguish rhyme, blend sounds, isolate sounds (such as initial & final), segment sounds, and manipulate sounds in words.
So how does Letterland fit into these recent research findings?
Letterland is a 'synthetic' phonics resource (as recommended by the Rose Review and NITL report) and helps with explicit teaching of letter sounds. It is the most motivational of the early childhood phonics resources and through its colourful pictograms enables letter sound correspondence knowledge to be stored directly in the long-term memory. Brain imaging research in 2005 by Dr Dennis Molfese of the University of Louisville, Kentucky showed Letterland to be much more effective at imparting knowledge to a child's long-term memory. For educators opinions of Letterland please refer the Letterland International site at http://www.letterland.com/About_us/Reading_research.html
So what does all the jargon mean?
Rather than list every literacy term here we would encourage you to browse the internet and find a useful glossary (just like we do!). For those time-poor individuals I have listed a couple of useful sites below. It must be bourne in mind that despite research findings supporting the use of phonic and phonemic teaching methods some professionals cling to whole-word ideologies and these will crop up as you browse the internet.
http://www.letterland.com/Teachers/Jargon_phonics.html Letterland's own literacy jargon glossary
Happy reading and please give us feedback on what you would like to see in this section!