Baddiel · Goswami · Horizon · print · sounds

Research on reading

I don’t know whether you saw the recent Horizon programme, in which David Baddiel asked the question ‘Who Do You Want Your Child to Be’. A somewhat bemused Baddiel was seen asking Usha Goswami, a Cambridge professor, what reading is about and was amazed to learn that reading is much about the sounds of the language rather than the visual. ‘The words and letters on the page,’ says Goswami, ‘are speech written down. It’s not the individual differences in visual learning that determine how well or how poorly a child learns to read. It’s the individual differences in the language system and it’s to do with the sound structure of words.’
The programme goes on to inform us that ‘to be able to read you first have to recognise the individual sounds that make up our language. These are then put together to make words.’
This would seem to support the kind of approach used by any phonics programme that has a sound-to-print orientation. otherwise known as linguistic phonics. In this approach, children are taught that the sounds in their language can be represented by spellings, which of course makes perfect sense. So where you need to start the learning to read and write process is by recognising that written language is a representation of spoken language.