I am not of the teaching profession, just a dismayed grandmother who is very annoyed with the long-standing Reading War. The casualties are numerous. I’ve always stood up for parents who wanted to know if their children were at grade-level in reading but were put off by teachers who dismissed their concerns.
The best book I’ve read on the topic of the Reading War is “Phonics and the Resistance to Reading” by Mike Lloyd-Jones, 2013. It tells the history of the issue and the current state in the United Kingdom. From my estimation I would say the history regarding the continuing Reading War closely approximates that in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. What is not equivalent, however, is the remedy. The UK has by legislation (2014) and financial support made systematic, synthetic phonics the standard for teaching reading in government schools and reinforced that with the Phonics Screening Check to identify, at an early age, students needing help to attain competency.
The book does infer that pockets of resistance remain in the UK but that was 3 years ago. What is clear, however, is that the commitment to raise literacy is there via both legislation and compliance with overwhelming research on the issue.
In my opinion, laggard jurisdictions and well-meaning reformers could gain considerable insight from this book about some of the dynamics of the opposition. These are some of the problems: phonicsphobia, opposition by the teaching unions, ideologically motivated teacher training, lazy media, myths & misrepresentations, teachers clinging to mixed methods, word guessing, etc. Even “partial phonics” is a problem as systematic, synthetic phonics is now seen as the settled method.
It’s a short and quickly paced book. I would recommend it. It also provides neat arguments against those who persist in saying that children can learn to read best without phonics. The resistance is well discussed. What remains for us to find is the strategy used in the UK to bring in the legislation and supports.
[comment to Filling the Pail blog — topic Phonics is like a vaccine, Jan 20, 2018]