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Phonics instruction: Grapheme to phoneme or phoneme to grapheme?

Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.


My blogs can be viewed on-line or downloaded as a Word file or PDF at

We know that beginners' knowledge of the relationship between letters and sounds is highly predictive of their subsequent reading success.

“The strongest single predictor of first grade reading performance, among the measures administered in kindergarten, was letter identification (as measured by the letter identification subtest of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised) (Woodcock, 1987).” (p.32)

Mazzocco, M., Denckla, M., Singer, H., Scanlon, D., Vellutino, F., & Reiss, A. (1997). Neurogenic and neurodevelopmental pathways to learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 8, 31-42.

“Letter knowledge among prekindergartners and kindergartners is one of the best predictors of reading and spelling acquisition later in school. This holds true in English, French, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, and Hebrew (e.g., Adams, 1990, Ball and Blachman, 1991, Bradley and Bryant, 1983, Bruck et al., 1997, Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley, 1989, de Jong and van der Leij, 1999 and Muter et al., 1998). Letter knowledge as a predictor not only surpasses IQ and vocabulary (e.g., Caravolas et al., 2001, Cardoso-Martins, 1995, McBride-Chang, 1999, Shatil et al., 2000 and Stuart and Coltheart, 1988) but at times also competes successfully with some tests of phonological awareness (e.g., Johnston, Anderson, & Holligan, 1996).” (p. 139)

Levin, I., Shatil-Carmon, S., & Asif-Rave, O. (2006). Learning of letter names and sounds and their contribution to word recognition. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93(2), 139-165.

See also:

Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

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