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Publication - Professor Jeffrey Bowers

    Beyond Phonics

    The Case for Teaching Children the Logic of the English Spelling System


    Bowers, J & Bowers, P, 2017, ‘Beyond Phonics: The Case for Teaching Children the Logic of the English Spelling System’. Educational Psychologist, vol 52., pp. 124-141


    A large body of research supports the conclusion that early reading instruction in English should emphasize phonics, that is, the teaching of grapheme-phoneme correspondences. By contrast, we argue that instruction should be designed to make sense of spellings by teaching children that spellings are organized around the interrelation of morphology, etymology and phonology. In this way, literacy can be taught as a scientific subject, where children form and test hypotheses about how their spelling system works. First, we review arguments put forward in support of phonics and then highlight significant problems with both theory and data. Second, we review the linguistics of English spellings and show that spellings are highly logical once all the relevant sub-lexical constraints are considered. Third, we provide theoretical and empirical arguments in support of the hypothesis that instruction should target all the cognitive skills necessary to understand the logic of the English spelling system.

    Full details in the University publications repository