Alison McQueen


Teach your kids to read

A news headline caught my eye this week. The UK government is insisting that all schools in England use the phonics system to teach kids to read. Synthetic phonics is described as “a method to decode simple words, as well as some made up words”. It supposedly encourages children to sounds words out, rather than recognizing them as a whole and reading for meaning.

They want to use this system because so many children arrive at school unable to read, and many of them still haven’t cracked it by the time they finish primary education. If I were dead I’d be turning in my grave. I have no doubt that it will turn thousands upon thousands of children into anti-readers.

We have some serious problems here with our education system, and indeed with the swathes of parents who point blank refuse to engage in their children’s basic literacy and numeracy.

If you haven’t given your kids a general heads-up about words and numbers by the time they reach school age, then that is a very poor show indeed. It’s not rocket science. It’s fun. Maths is done with Smarties and macaroni. It’s a piece of cake. (In fact pieces of cake will also do just fine.)

Words are everywhere, like little keys that unlock everything. Kids love puzzles and games and they are very, very clever. It’s not schools that teach kids to read, it’s parents. This is the way it has always been. You don’t have to do it all yourself. You can pull in the assistance of Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the rest of the Sesame Street gang. Your 3 year old will be singing the alphabet in no time.