It seems to me that the debate about whether children learn to read faster using the phonics method or the whole-word method is missing the point entirely. I am an editor, so I guess you could say I am a "professional reader." Yet, I doubt any of my friends or colleagues would guess--or care, for that matter--that I learned to read fluently at age 7, whereas my sister--who makes her living as an accountant--was reading fluently in kindergarten. My son is 7 1/2 and does not read more than a few words. But any adult conversing with him is captivated by his advanced vocabulary, his use of both modern and archaic expressions, and the depth of his questions. He is now teaching himself to read because he needs this skill to interact within the virtual worlds that he loves.
I once read that Beverly Cleary, who wrote the much-adored children's books about Henry Huggins and Ramona the Pest, learned to read later than most kids because she so adored to be read to.
Therefore I think a more important study would be to examine the life-long learning skills developed by those who learned to read when they were motivated and ready. Any adult, be it a parent or teacher, who has tried to teach someone to read against their will knows the strife and ill will that comes out of that exercise in futility.
Maybe instead of fighting the Reading Wars, we should put our efforts into stopping the Reading Race.

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