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The importance of early reading instruction

Professor Pamela Snow is head of the La Trobe Rural Health School and will soon become Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the School of Education at La Trobe.

In this podcast, Snow talks about how blended reading approaches, which are a mixture of whole language and phonics approaches to reading, have become popular in many classrooms, yet they risk not providing vulnerable students with the foundation skills necessary to move on to more complex texts..

The world-renowned reading expert also addresses the so-called Reading Wars, saying whole language approaches make sense to many teachers because reading is essentially about meaning-making. However, she also cautions that explicit phonics, vocabulary and comprehension instruction need to occur before such meaning-making can be realised by the student.

While she agrees that some knowledge of reading instruction is helpful for secondary teachers, the aim should be that “95 per cent” of students have basic reading skills by the time they leave primary school. She also details some troubling links between reading instruction and anxiety and depression, as well as chronic disengagement and encounters with the juvenile detention system.

Listen to the full podcast for more of Snow’s observations and findings.

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