The Role of Phonics in Reading Instruction

Summary

Explicit instruction in phonics, or the relationships between sounds and letters, has become as much a political issue as an educational one. IRA therefore asserts the following:

  • Teaching phonics is an important aspect of beginning reading instruction. However, effective phonics instruction is embedded in the context of a complete reading and language arts program.
  • Classroom teachers value and teach phonics as part of their reading programs. Rather than debate whether phonics should be taught, effective teachers of reading and writing ask when, how, how much, and under what circumstances phonics should be taught.

The Association denounces

  • Exaggerated media claims that blame student failure on inattention to phonics in beginning reading instruction
  • The “reading wars”—the pitting of phonics against literature in literacy instruction, as if the two were incompatible
  • The growth in curricular mandates that require teachers to follow highly prescriptive plans for phonics instruction

The Association supports

  • Research into effective phonics instruction
  • Teacher education that encourages best practices in teaching phonics
  • Parent education concerning the place of phonics within the reading program
  • Curriculum development that effectively integrates phonics into the reading program
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