If you have a TV then you know all about the Your Baby Can Read that promises your that your baby, as young as 6 months old will learn how to read. Sounds amazing doesn't it? And we all want to give our children a head start with reading. But what is the science behind these types of whole word reading methods and are the better than teaching phonics?
Whole word reading or whole word language, is exactly what the name implies. Instead of breaking the word down into individual sounds, it teaches the child to look at the word as a whole and memorize it by the way it looks. Kind of like looking at a picture of an elephant and memorizing that picture as an elephant except with words.
Benefits: Children can be taught whole word language reading at a young age. It also, generally results in faster results. This may be beneficial to struggling readers. Visual learners have also been shown to benefit from whole word reading. Whole word reading is believed to give better understanding of the text being read.
Cons: Children who use only whole word reading may have difficulty decoding complex words, because of this, whole word reading also leads to greater reading inaccuracy. Spelling unfamiliar words may also be an issue since the reader has nothing to base the spelling on.
Phonics, uses sets of rules to break down individual sounds and blends in order to decode words. Once these rules are learned, readers learn to recognize and obey the rules instantly.
Benefits: Because phonetic rules give a reader the ability to decode, the reader is more likely to be able to read unfamiliar words. Spelling is usually easier for readers who are taught phonics since the reader is able to apply the rules learned.
Cons: Phonics rules can be repetitious. Early readers may have trouble with comprehension due to the constant stopping to break down words. This usually passes as the reader becomes more proficient.
Which is better? Most likely the answer is both. A combination of phonics and whole word reading in the form of sight words will give the ability to decode words but also give the reader words that s/he does not have to decode. Readers who fall severely into visual learning may benifit more from whole word while extreme auditory learners will most likely thrive on phonics.
(Just as a side note)How do I feel about Teach Your Baby to Read? I actually think that it is a bad idea. Besides the fact that there is no scientific evidence that says that early reading is good for baby, you also have to sit your very young child down in front of a TV and then in front of flash cards. I am all for just for letting your baby be a baby!
Whole Language Curriculum Resources
Phonics Approach Curriculum Resources