'When it comes to Teaching Literacy, the Brits Should Listen to the Aussies,' says British Phonics Expert Alan Davies

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At the launch of the final report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, 8 December, Dr Brendan Nelson, the Australian Government Minister for Education, stated, “We need to start now on a journey of making sure that every Australian understands that parenthood involves a number of responsibilities. One of them is actually starting to read to your children in early life. And, on a day to day basis, let’s envisage a future where the average parent gets up each day and thinks, well, of all the things I’ve got to do today, one of them is read to my child.”

At the launch of the final report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, 8 December, Dr Brendan Nelson, the Australian Government Minister for Education, stated, “We need to start now on a journey of making sure that every Australian understands that parenthood involves a number of responsibilities. One of them is actually starting to read to your children in early life. And, on a day to day basis, let’s envisage a future where the average parent gets up each day and thinks, well, of all the things I’ve got to do today, one of them is read to my child”.

This advice is in stark contrast to that of the British Minister of Education, Ruth Kelly, who stated at the launch of the Rose Review, 1 December, “We should have a systematic approach to teaching Synthetic Phonics, that should be taught first and foremost to all children, certainly by the age of five and then, yes, other strategies should come in after that to help and support those readers for whom a variety of methods is appropriate.”

British Phonics expert Alan Davies believes that Ruth Kelly is wrong to believe that synthetic phonics is the ‘best route to becoming skilled readers’. He believes that she has been misguided and has probably made the “Biggest faux pas, by a Minister of Education, in British Educational history.” He believes, as stated on Sky News, 1 December, “The best thing they [parents] can do, if they want to teach their child to be literate in English, is to put a three-year-old child on their knee and turn over the pages of a favourite book to anticipate the story and the pictures”.

Commenting on Brendan Nelson’s statement, Davies said, “Ruth Kelly’s equivalent advice would be, ‘Let’s envisage a future where the average parent gets up each day and thinks, well, of all the things I’ve got to do today, one of them is to find out if my child is an expert in Synthetic Phonics before we can turn over the pages of a favourite book.”

Davies is the pioneer of the widely used phonics programme THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills), which is used in many schools in the UK, but more extensively in Australia and, over the last two years, Southern Africa. The Botswana Government are to implement THRASS in all primary and secondary schools and the THRASS two-day training course is a compulsory module for trainee teachers at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a growing number of other universities in South Africa.

Davies is the author of an accredited ‘Phonics Certificate for Parents’, first staged at Oxley Park Primary School, Milton Keynes, England, September 2005. Two videos of the training course, attended by fifty parents, can be viewed and/or freely downloaded from the website http://www.phonics4parents.co.uk

The second video focuses on the THRASS PHONEME MACHINE software, which uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation system and moving human lips, to help parents better understand the building blocks of the English Language, the 44 sounds and 120 key spelling-choices.

THRASS UK NEW MEDIA CENTRE: http://www.thrass.co.uk/nm.htm

Mike Meade, Media Director, TUK 01829 741413 Mob: 07970 151 738

Chris Griffiths, International Development, TUK +30 266 203 1207

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