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There has been a debate between proponents of phonics and advocates of the whole language. Although there seemed to be some consensus between learning by the sound of letters and learning through cues and being exposed to literature, recent events suggest otherwise.  

Experts, parents, and teachers seem to agree on the significance of phonics, but whatever is happening in classrooms does not match what research suggests. As a result, this has evoked a national debate regarding the meaning of “phonics.”

Reading through breaking words to parts

Columbia University’s Teachers College professor Lucy M Calkins and an expert on how to teach reading has caught attention with an essay titled “No One Gets to Own The Term ‘The Science of Reading.’” In her argument, Lucy argues that the most important thing is to teach children not to freeze when they encounter a hard word or skip it. Lucy claims that kids should be taught to have various resources to draw from that can help them in developing their capabilities.

For instance, they can take the unfamiliar word and break it into different parts. From there, they can then use their knowledge of letter-sound correspondence to crack it. Equally, they can reread the sentence and then think it through what it could be. They can then look at the hypothesis versus the actual letters.

Reading by decoding pronunciation

However, according to critics of Calkins, it is wasteful and cruel to subject 6-year old kids to clues when they don’t know the correct sounds. The critics indicated that kids should work on decoding the pronunciation until they master every letter group.

According to Mark Seidenberg, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Calkins’ approach is a slow and unreliable way of reading, and it’s an inefficient way of developing word recognition skills. Mark states that Calkins takes word recognition as if it were a reasoning problem, such as solving a puzzle. He indicates that skilled reading should be automatic and not deliberative. This is a sentiment shared by many who feel that kids should learn by decoding and not through perceptive guesswork and conclusion.