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Phonics Works: Sounding Out Words Best Way to Teach Reading

Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has shown that learning to read by sounding out words (a teaching method known as phonics) has a dramatic impact on the accuracy of reading aloud and comprehension.

There has been intense debate concerning how children should be taught to read. Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit tested whether learning to read by sounding out words is more effective than focusing on whole-word meanings. In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans.

Professor Kathy Rastle, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said, “The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and our MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading.”

“There is a long history of debate over which method, or mix of methods, should be used to teach reading,” continued Professor Rastle. “Some people continue to advocate using a variety of meaning-based cues, such as pictures and sentence context, to guess the meanings of words. However, our research is clear that reading instruction that focuses on teaching the relationship between spelling and sound is most effective. Phonics works.”


Edublox clinics specialise in cognitive training that makes learners smarter, and helps them learn and read faster, easier, and better. The classes address:

* Concentration: Focused and sustained attention.

* Processing skills: Visual and auditory foreground-background differentiation; visual and auditory discrimination, synthesis and analysis; form discrimination; directionality and spatial relations.

* Memory: Visual, auditory, sequential, iconic, short-term, long-term and working memory.

* Logical thinking: Deductive and inductive reasoning.

* Reading, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension.

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Does your child suffer from a reading problem? Edublox can help:
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“Joy was in Grade 4 when I enrolled her for Edublox lessons. I got feedback from her teacher Mrs Govender that she was struggling to read and write. She was failing her spelling tests and not meeting the Grade 4 standard. I also assessed her books and she was really struggling. She couldn’t spell at all. Joy couldn’t read a book on her own and couldn’t do her homework.

“I was so worried and asked other parents in her school about extra lessons that could benefit her. It was then I heard about Edublox, and I didn’t hesitate to call Monique who assisted me. Joy did a written test which confirmed that she needed a lot of assistance. Monique advised me that Joy needed to attend two lessons per week at Edublox.

“I started noticing improvement within three months because she started doing homework on her own. When I came back from work she would only show me the things that she struggled with when she was doing her work. It was a relief from me and I also got report from the class teacher that Joy is improving. They started asking me about what I was doing to her because she has now improved remarkably.

“Joy managed to get the certificate for improvement and a certificate for Maths. Since she started improving in reading it became easy for her to understand problem solving in Mathematics. Her awards motivated Joy to work very hard and then she excelled in all the subjects. Monique also noticed the improvement and her lessons were then reduced to once a week. Joy started joining reading competitions at her school such as Phendulani due to her increased confidence in reading. Joy was third best student in Grade 6. In Grade 7 she was selected as a prefect and she continued to get awards in Mathematics.”

Mpho Chipu

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