I suspect that, given the chance to have a chat, Michael Rosen and I would agree on a lot.
I love the art, magic and power of language both written and aloud. I read to my children until they were in high school.
I have no professional purpose in life other than getting young people over the humiliation of not being able to read and spell by supporting them into the world of text.
I’m suspicious of commercial educational concerns – and would be happy to disclose my finances to Mr Rosen should he like a laugh.
I’m not a fan of teacher-centred-face-forward classrooms.
I’m a grateful product of whacky early 70s open education.
I always question authority.
Unlike Mr Rosen, I don’t really have an interest in what goes on in primary reading instruction, except as a person who keeps meeting teenagers who don’t understand how the squiggles on the page relate to the sounds they say out loud.
Also unlike Mr Rosen, I hate polarisation and I abhor the idea of people being at war over reading. I also very much wish that he would step back from the battle to see who’s being caught in the crossfire. I’ll take that step back for him and the answer is…….
me – and my struggling readers. All because of phonics – because I have to tiptoe around suspicious educators who have fallen for the right/left, phonics/not phonics rhetoric.
I know it’s not only Michael (I’m sure he’d ask me to call him Michael by now) but he has become a “voice against phonics” – a cool, artistic and well loved voice against phonics. People want to be in his gang and his gang seems to see itself as the foil to the evil ToryEdunistas.
So here I am in no-woman’s-land because I’m with him on almost everything – except phonics. You see, in all my years of working with struggling older readers, I’ve not met one who didn’t need to know how to get from speech to print and back again. I’ve not met one who didn’t need to know that the English code isn’t chaos. Almost all of them had been failed by a system which assumed they should learn to read by being exposed to text. And more often than not they were allowed to feel like complete failures for not being able to do that.
There are far too many young people who can’t access the secondary curriculum because they can no longer guess words from context and their memory banks of sight words are full. Please don’t make their teachers believe that phonics can’t possibly be the answer because Michael Rosen hates it.
Phonics is a tool – not a political affiliation – and it’s a darn good tool for those older struggling readers.
Get in touch if you want to chat about how phonics can be deliciously subversive.