Why children struggle to read

Researcher Jennifer Buckingham writes:

Written English is a code. Once children learn the code, they can read almost any word. Some children learn to read without much formal teaching in phonics – these children are the minority. Most children need to be taught the code through phonics. Children who have not needed much phonics instruction to read well often need phonics to spell correctly. All children from all socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from good phonics instruction, but especially children who have not had the benefit of pre-school or a literacy-rich early home life.

I agree that phonics is important. But if English is a code, shouldn’t educators focus on making that code as simple and easy-to-learn as possible. English started as a phonetic language more than a thousand years ago, but subsequent evolution has introduced a myriad of complex spelling and grammatical rules that take children years to master.

Perhaps that is why education over-achievers Finland and South Korea enjoy such high rankings. Hank Pellissier at GreatSchools writes:

In 2006 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted a survey of 15-year-olds’ academic skills from 57 nations. Finland placed first in science by a whopping 5% margin, second in math (edged out by one point by Chinese Taipei), and third in reading (topped by South Korea)……Finnish and Korean languages are easy to read and spell; they don’t have the illogical phonetics of English.

Simplifying the structure of English phonetics would go some way to leveling the playing field.

Read more at Publications – Comment: First, become a good reader.