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  • Maria Moyles

What Phonics Cannot Teach!

I was watching the Swiss-German version of Heidi with Anuk Steffen this weekend on @primevideouk . There’s a poignant moment in the middle of the film where the governess brands Heidi “backwards” due to her seeming inability to learn her alphabet and read, despite repeated lessons on letter instruction. Clara’s grandmother resolves to make her own mind up and that night tucks Heidi up in bed with a bedtime story before stopping short of revealing the end of the story. Heidi is desperate to know how the story ends and in a gentle, encouraging way, grandmother gives her the motivation and reason to want to read.

Yes, it’s a story and it’s not real life, but there’s so much that resonates with learning to read for young children in that moment. Heidi declares “Peter says we don’t need to read in the mountains” and reading for her, therefore, has before this moment lacked relevance and importance: she has had no inclination to learn. It’s eventually the love of stories that grandma ignites that gives her the motivation and desire to want to learn and it is with that that she then learns to read quickly.

If you’re at home struggling with the phonics and worrying that by not doing the phonics lessons will hinder your child’s reading please don’t worry.

Focus on the things that will help children to learn to love, appreciate and ultimately want reading to be part of lives. This is something that phonics cannot teach or foster and without it, the phonics will always be meaningless to a child and they will then never learn to become readers.

There’s a difference between learning to read and learning to become a reader. The latter is a lifelong skill and love.

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