After 16 weeks studying letter sounds, most children have mastered art of reading

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The Independent Online

Synthetic phonics teaches children how to read through understanding the sound of words.

Synthetic phonics teaches children how to read through understanding the sound of words.

For example, the word "street" would be broken down into five different sounding letters - "s-t-r-ee-t". Within 16 weeks, after studying different letter sounds for 20 minutes at a time, most children have mastered the art of reading.

They understand how to blend the different sounds to form simple words. Once children have learnt the 43 different letter sounds and combinations used in the British language, they move on to understanding the meaning of the words they see.

According to the study of schools in Clackmannanshire, within a year they are seven months ahead of fellow pupils using a different range of methods to learn how to read. They also learn how to spell better than other pupils.

The study also appeared to show synthetic phonics helped boys more than girls. They performed better in skills tests - the reverse of what has become the norm in schools.

The phonics programme devised by Nellie Dale as a result of earlier attempts to introduce the method in the mid 19th century became popular in UK and US schools in 1898. By 1920, one-word flash cards had become the most popular way of teaching reading. But by the 1960s,Janet and John books had taken centre stage. The national curriculum for English, published in 1989, was revised in 1992 to include more emphasis on phonics. This year's report on a seven-year synthetic phonics study in Clackmannanshire showed it is successful with all children.

The education select committee requested a trial, and the Government set up a review of the national literacy strategy.