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[Susan notes: Great letter: Cold fusion journalistic tactics.

Krashen offers hat-tips to Michael Rosen and Brian Cambourne. And Kudos to The Guardian for publishing his letter.]

Published in The Guardian

To the editor

Re: Phonics education technique shown to have positive impact on literacy,June 16

The Guardian's enthusiastic report about the efficacy of phonics is an example of "Cold Fusion" journalistic practice: Presenting research reports to the public before the scientific community has reviewed them. I provide one brief "peer review" here.

Neither the study (thanks to the Guardian for providing a link to the preliminary report) nor the Guardian's article pointed out that the study only confirmed what we already know: Intensive phonics instruction helps children do better on tests in which they are asked to pronounce words outloud, and on tests of spelling.

Not mentioned is the consistent finding that intensive phonics instruction makes no significant contribution to performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read: Real reading ability is the result of actual reading, especially of books that readers find very interesting. Good readers eventually acquire nearly all the rules of phonics and spelling, as a result of reading.

Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus USC

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