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M. Milton

University of Western Sydney (AUSTRALIA)
There has been much debate worldwide over the last few decades about how to effectively teach literacy to a diverse range of young learners. There has been a division between proponents of a ‘Balanced’ approach which developed from ‘Whole Language’ methodology, and those who believe in a ‘Phonics First’ approach. The Balanced approach places an emphasis on making meaning by the use of ‘authentic’ texts, teaching decoding in an embedded and non-explicit way. By comparison, a Phonics First approach teaches letter-sound correspondences explicitly and often uses, simple, easily decodable texts. Several recent research studies have indicated that explicit, structured and sequential approaches to teaching decoding first and fast are the most efficient way to teach beginning literacy and yet the reading wars still rage (Johnson & Watson, 2005; NRP, 2000; Rose, 2006Snow, Burns & Griffin, 2001). This paper examines the background, current research and reasons for continued debate in an effort to provide a way forward.