The Snow Report to parents by Pamela Snow is about how children are taught to read. It is directed at Australian parents, but the situation is similar in most English speaking countries, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. England is different, because systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) is in The National Curriculum and the Department of Education provides guidance for teaching SSP through The reading framework. However, even in England many universities do not provide enough information for their student teachers to understand the alphabetic code, the principles of SSP and the evidence that it is effective; and not all schools teach SSP well enough.
Pamela’s report is worth reading for parents and educators everywhere. The full report can be found at
Here are some excerpts:
I am reaching out about a subject that I know will be extremely important to you – the question of whether or not your child learns to read in the early years of school.
… Unfortunately, all is not as it should be when it comes to how we teach our children to read, and parents need to be well-informed about this.
… We’ve known for a long time that teachers lack the critical knowledge of language and literacy that is needed to take a novice 5-year old on the amazing and life-changing journey towards becoming a reader. This is not the fault of teachers. Responsibility for this lies with their university lecturers, who, for decades, have ignored or shunned robust cognitive psychology research about what the reading process is and how best to approach reading instruction to ensure success for all.
… Does it matter what kind of phonics instruction children receive?
Yes, it does … the odds favour approaches that are systematic, rather than incidental, and have a focus on synthesising (blending and segmenting sounds), rather than just focusing on initial letters or sounds in words.
Remember: written text was devised as a code for spoken language, so in order to derive meaning from it, children need to be able to decipher the code.
Reading needs to be taught by classroom teachers on school entry. The corollary of this is that if your child has difficulties with reading at school, it cannot be attributed to a lack of home reading time in the pre-school years. This is called parent-blame and is not OK.
No child should be deprived of the life-changing opportunity to learn to read. We know too much to be able to make excuses for failures to translate knowledge into action in universities and schools.