Language is certainly an important requirement for proper and healthy cognitive, social, and emotional growth and development of a child. This explains why our education system is designed in a manner that ensures that during formative years children are exposed to the more direct teaching of pragmatic knowledge, phonetics, semantic, and morphemic. However, there is an evident disagreement between and among scholars of human growth and development.
On the one hand, some believe that children’s natural development is stinted by the regimented rote memorization of phonics and manipulation of language, while others believe a systematic approach like phonics instruction is the most effective way to increase language acquisition during primary years. The purpose of this task is to describe the central concerns of the current phonics instruction controversy.
Central concerns of the current phonics controversy
There are two main opposing schools of thought on the instruction of literacy. The bottom-up theories have put forward a sub-skills approach, which holds that reading is learned at the beginning by manipulating the fundamental components of language, that is, alphabetical letters and words (Riley 2003). On the other hand, the top-down schools of thought propose that seeking out the meaning is the most important objective right from the start of learning how to read. Top-down theories further suggest that guessing and prediction are the main strategies for decoding words (Riley 2003).
In the US, these two opposing points of view have been enthusiastically discussed as phonics instruction in opposition to whole language (Hempenstall 2009). Even though on the surface the debate appears to be about teaching methods, the deeper level of departure revolves around what children have to learn so as to develop his or her language and be able to read (Riley 2003). Central concerns of the current phonics controversy revolve around fundamental questions such as which feature of language plays the most significant role in a child’s endeavors in learning how to read.
Another important concern comprises whether semantics and syntax are the most important or it is phonology, which is crucial (Riley 2003). Another important concern regarding the current phonics controversy is the issue of the role of naturalness in a child’s learning to read. Here the main issue regards whether educators can view learning to read and write as an extension of listening and speaking (Riley 2003). Another significant concern regards whether a child’s former experience of spoken language can, in any way, make the acquisition of the ability to read and write through phonics and direct teaching more elusive (Riley 2003; Otto 2010).
The language is enhancing activities Vs. Phonics controversy
Perhaps it is important to mention that learning is a complicated process that is multifaceted and thus calling for a multiapproach strategy on the side of the educators and other relevant educational stakeholders. Adopting a multiapproach to learning ensures that children’s diverse cognitive and reading competencies are taken off by providing the most suitable way of learning to read for each and every child. According to Martin Turner cited in Riley (2003), if a particular approach to instructing reading had indisputably shown supremacy over other approaches, then the present phonics controversy would have been determined a long time ago. Therefore, language enhancing activities such as investigative activities and take-home exploratory activities should be applied hand in hand with phonics and direct instruction of reading.
Every approach to helping children learn to read has its pros and cons. Each has diverse potential to help different children with diverse reading competences learn to read during the first years of schooling. Phonics instruction can prove useful in unleashing children’s reading potential if used objectively with other effective activities like language enhancing activities. In any case, evidence has demonstrated that those instructors who comprehend the complexity of how young ones learn to read adopt a structured multi-approach strategy successfully. Doing so holds up all elements of print processing essential for flowing reading to develop during primary years.
Hempenstall, K. (2009). The Whole Language-Phonics Controversy: A Historical Perspective. Education news, Web.
Otto, B. (2010). Language development in early childhood (3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
Riley, J. (2003). The teaching of reading: the development of literacy in the early years of school. New York, NY: SAGE.