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Successful reading may be achieved by balancing approaches: bottom-up and top-down.

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Successful reading may be achieved by balancing approaches: bottom-up and top-down. Discuss the relative merits of these two approaches in the context of the statement above. The main two approaches to reading, top-down and bottom-up have produced a great debate towards which is the best approach to teach children to read. Top down reading is also known as the whole language approach in which the meaning of the text relies upon the reader's background knowledge and his/her use of prediction to anticipate the meaning of the text. (http://www.sedl.org/reading/topics/balanced.html [23.10.01]). The bottom-up approach to reading involves the use of phonics and the decoding of text, word by word after which meaning and understanding will follow (http://www.sedl.org/reading/topics/balanced.html [23.10.01]). Phonics is referred to a method of teaching children to read by relating certain letters or sequences of letters with certain sounds (R.L. Trusk, 1997, p.168). Phonics involves mastering the alphabetic principle by learning the grapheme-phoneme correspondence rules (rules of relating letters or groups of letters to sounds). A grapheme is a small unit of written language, whereas a phoneme is a small unit of spoken language (Beard, 1993, p.63). Margaret Cooper informs us that we have approximately 44 speech sounds but we have only 26 letters which can represent them, this presents the complexity of the English alphabetic system (Cooper, 1996, p.34). However, Jane Oakhill comments that mastering the alphabetic principle leads children to independent reading (Beard, 1993, p.63). Jenny Curtis (in her article, phonics v. whole language, which is better?) informs us that whole language, unlike phonics, is not so focussed on rules and repetition. ...read more.


The result will be a failure to acquire flexibility in the techniques of reading. The problem of concern is that an over reliance on a programme with a consistent letter sound correspondence may condition a child in this type of reading situation, they will acquire a 'mind set' for consistency which will hinder their progress in reading (Goodacre, 1971, p.52). Ken Boothe, Leah B. Walter and Glenys Waters in 'What is a top down reading model?' highlight Frank Smith, a reading researcher's comments on top-down reading, he states that reading should not involve the decoding of written language into spoken language and he specifies that 'reading is a matter of bringing meaning to print, not extracting meaning from print.' (McCormick.T, 1998) (http://www.sil.org/lingualinks/literacy...acyTerms/WhatIs AtopDownReadingModel.htm [20.10.01]) In my assessment of the phonics approach, it is my judgement that this approach falls short of particular qualities for successful reading such as, it is doubtful whether this approach allows the reader to differentiate the purposes of different texts, also, the approach allows the readers to read but not to question either the contents or the author's perspective in the text. It is my understanding that the bottom-up approach mostly involves simple reading with less depth in a reading context. Comparing this method with the top-down approach leads me to believe that whole language reading is holistic in style and thus gives the reader a clearer understanding of the whole of the text. Whereas the phonics reader masters reading in steps by associating sound with letters before identification of a word, the whole language reader masters reading by the direct identification of the word. ...read more.


This, Wren considers to be the first step and then he urges us to move on with this as a base. Wren draws our attention to focus more on the reader than the teacher and his/her reading instructions. Only then will children become literate when teachers look at their needs which will become apparent from assessments. Children's reading skills if diagnosed and responded to by teachers will not be a debate (http://www.sedl.org/reading/topics/balanced.html [23.10.01]). We have dealt with the merits and limitations of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. The discussion has shown that there are three main approaches to reading. While the debate of phonics v. whole language can continue without compromise, this debate will not yield successful reading inspite of the individual merits of both top-down and bottom-up reading. The discussion above has shown sufficient support for the third way, the interactive approach but above all, it is my understanding that the reader's needs comes first, each child has an individual way of learning, teachers must nurture and develop the child's reading approach and further his/her skills by introducing a variety of approaches, using phonics and whole language at such a level and combination that the young reader is most receptive to the style of training. I understand the successful reader to be one who applies the various strategies of reading and who's mind is enriched with knowledge and meaning as a result of his reading approach. In short the balance should reflect the needs of the reader. Assess the reader and balance the approaches accordingly. This is in my opinion, the key to successful reading. Word Count: 2,692. ...read more.

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