England and the Phonics Debate

Nick Gibb:

The modern debate about how to teach children to read was triggered in 1955 by the publication in America of Why Jonny Can’t Read. Rudolph Flesch’s book told the story of a 12-year-old who was failing at school because his reading was so poor.

Flesch attributed Jonny’s struggle to the fact he had been taught to read with a method known as “look and say”, in which children repeat common words until they recognise them on sight. “The teaching of reading never was a problem anywhere in the world,” Flesch wrote, “until the United States switched to the present method in 1925”.

Look and say replaced phonics — a system of teaching children the sounds of the alphabet and how to blend those sounds