Anne Glennie is a literacy consultant and trainer, author of Reflective Reading and Phonics Forever, and owner of The Learning Zoo. To date, she has trained over 7000 teachers across 600 schools and counting, in all aspects of literacy and assessment in Scotland. She is also a publisher (Cranachan Publishing), specialising in high quality, Scottish historical fiction for children and teaching resources for their Pokey Hat imprint.
Through working with schools in Scotland, Anne discovered that many teachers had never been given any form of input or professional learning on how to teach reading, and, through no fault of their own, teachers lacked the pedagogical subject knowledge required to not only teach all children to read, but to enable them to evaluate the reading schemes and programmes that filled their cupboards. Determined to find the most effective way to teach children to read, based on research, rather than resources, Anne looked to the vast body of educational literature on the matter.
Anne describes reading Diane McGuinness’s ‘Early Reading Instruction’ as a ‘game-changer’. She was delighted to discover McGuinness’s prototype – a clear and practical ‘shopping list’ of the necessary elements required to teach all children to read. However, she was also dismayed to realise that, despite the ground-breaking research carried out by Watson and Johnston in Clackmannanshire as part of their seven-year longitudinal study in early reading, that many aspects of the prototype were absent in classrooms in Scotland.
It is highly ironic that one of the most widely cited studies into the efficacy of systematic synthetic phonics, which was hugely influential in changing thinking, practice and policy around the world, has failed to have the required impact in its own country. Teaching reading in Scotland is now entrenched in ‘mixed methods’, with ‘sight words’ and ‘other strategies’ being set in stone by the ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (full implementation from 2010). Many teachers, and those involved in education in Scotland, truly believe that this ‘balanced’ approach, which includes some phonics, is best for all learners. Unwittingly, in an attempt to cover all bases, the phonics practice that is in evidence, is undermined by the use of old reading schemes, sight words and guessing strategies.
Anne used to believe that ‘there is more than one way to teach reading.’ But through her study of research, evidence and leading-edge classroom practice – she changed her mind. Her mission now is to change everyone else’s; the literacy skills and life chances of Scotland’s children depend on it.