Phonics works best to build comprehension
. . . researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans. Professor Kathy Rastle, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said, “The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and our MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading.”
In England, state-funded primary schools are required to use systematic phonics to teach reading rather than “whole-word” or meaning-based methods. The percentage of children meeting reading standards rose from 58 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2016.
“Some people continue to advocate using a variety of meaning-based cues, such as pictures and sentence context, to guess the meanings of words,” said Rastle. “However, our research is clear that reading instruction that focuses on teaching the relationship between spelling and sound is most effective. Phonics works.”
Phonics “enables reading comprehension,” said Jo Taylor, also of the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway.