Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Phonics Fever in New Zealand

Published as a comment to a website called “Stuff” from New Zealand as a response to “Kids battling to learn because of gaps in teaching fundamentals” January 3: 

Whenever a country’s international reading test scores show the slightest drop, there is a call for more phonics. New Zealand ten-year olds scored eight points lower on the international PIRLS examination than ten-year olds in 2011, a very small drop. Nevertheless, phonics fever is in full force in New Zealand.

Increasing phonics study won’t help on tests of this kind.  A number of studies have confirmed that Intensive phonics study will only improve scores on tests in which children pronounce words presented on a list. It has no impact on tests such as the PIRLS, in which children have to understand what they read. 

Research has, however, confirmed that students who do the best on reading comprehension tests are those who have done more self-selected (recreational) reading. In fact, those who read more not only read better, they write better, have larger vocabularies, spell better, and have better control of grammar. 

In order to develop a pleasure reading habit, children need access to books. The best way to insure this is investing in libraries and librarians. 

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

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