As an English Lit. tutor, I soon became frustrated with trying to teach children to read English. What a ridiculous language. With many other languages, words are spelt in a way that reflects the way you say them. In English, we add extra letters just for the fun of it. I mean, come on, someone was on the wacky weed when they decided the spelling for thorough or tough or lamb.
I was never a fan of teaching the alphabet either. Just how does knowing that the letter A made an ay sound help anyway? How did it help in reading dad, speak or can?
For me, teaching the alphabet is one of the most wasteful learning we can do with a child. But most of us were taught this way, I know I was. All knowing the alphabet really achieves is to help the child recite the alphabet. However, it can also be an obstacle in reading.
When you actually think about it, how counter-productive does teaching, 'A is for apple' seem? It just goes against the child's inner logic. But I started teaching this way myself!
When I lived in England, I found this incongruity so fascinating, along with the incredible variety of accents, that I took a degree. I learnt all about why the language was so ridiculous. Tons of fun but it didn't help me teach reading more effectively.
Then I came upon a book Why Children Can't Read. It changed my entire outlook. It was one of those times when what you have felt intuitively is made plain and tangible. The general premise is that we're teaching children the English language in a way that is nonsensical.
You see, we try to teach children an illogical language logically. To make matters worse, some educators in want of something to do, come up with all sorts or rules. You know, like, i before e except after c. And every rule has an exception, so it isn't really a rule at all and thereby only remotely helpful to an experienced reader. To a beginner, this is all extremely frustrating. And I would bet that many children give up on books because of this frustration alone.
I then took a course in phono-graphix. I don't claim that every child will learn this way. I just want to share with others a different way to guide children in their reading. I tutured over a dozen children in this method, including a few with dyslexia, and it worked for them.
One very important teaching of this method is that we do not approach letters as if they make a sound. This is a strange idea that we teach children - A makes the sound ay. It doesn't though, it's just a letter - symbol or picture.
Here's the crux of the method.
Instead of teaching children in-congruent spelling, we start with something they already know, their language. More accurately, the sounds of their language. Then we show them which picture sounds can be used to represent that sound.
So a child who speaks already has the sound 'ay' in his or her head. We teach them that the picture sounds for that sound are - a, ai, ay, and a-e (as in take). It's perfectly okay for a child to misspell, or use the incorrect sound picture. If the child is using from the set of the sound, he is learning.
Of course there is more to it than this, but that's the gist of it.