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The Origins of the Fitzroy Readers
The name of our town, Fitzroy, is known to thousands of children - mostly in schools across Australia, but also in New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore and many other countries. This is because the title Fitzroy Readers is printed across the top of every copy of seventy children's story books created here in Fitzroy and published as a series for learning to read. Over this decade, a million story booklets have been printed.
Back in the early seventies, we, Faye Berryman and Philip O'Carroll, met and started up Fitzroy Community School in North Fitzroy, an inner suburb of Melbourne. Many of the houses here are over a century old, built in the old English style. The school faces a leafy park, known as the Edinburgh Gardens. Faye had been a secondary teacher who had seen the sad outcomes for children who emerged from primary schooling with poor literacy. Philip had been a philosophy lecturer specialising in logic and linguistics. Between the two of us, we were determined to come up with a method of teaching that would ensure that every child could read well.
The Fitzroy Readers have helped children in over 3000 schools in Australia, and many children in other countries. Furthermore, since we published these, school systems across Australia have gradually re-adopted a phonic element into their reading programmes.
And we sometimes wonder who is reading our stories. And we wonder how the teachers, children and parents who use the Fitzroy Readers in so many places far and wide, imagine Fitzroy, the source of their seventy stories.
The Whole Language Approach
Giving children books and encouraging parents to read to their children is a lovely thing. However, as government policy, to be implemented as the weapon against Australia's poor literacy standards, it can only fail. Not only this, but such a government initiative will lull the general public into the false security that something practical is being done to remedy the problem.
It is a big red herring. The real issue confronting us is the flawed literacy method used in most of our schools and taught to trainee teachers in our universities - namely the whole language approach. This approach, which was taken up by academics and schools over thirty years ago, may have been well intentioned, but it was/is not well founded.
The whole language approach is based on the false premise that since children naturally acquire speech by exposure to the spoken language of the group they are born into, that the same will hold true for reading and writing. The theory goes: immerse the children in stories read aloud and they will naturally come to read and write. The Australian education industry (including our universities) has failed to acknowledge research findings - both local and international, and available over the past thirty years - that the whole language approach would fail many children, and that a systematic phonic approach to teaching literacy, should be employed. Humans are genetically endowed with the ability to acquire speech. But reading and writing are learned skills - as human history has consistently shown us.
The first thing that a teacher of English to beginners must do is see how spoken English is transformed into its written form. English is an alphabetic language. We use the letters of the alphabet to represent our speech sounds. Teaching someone to read and write means explaining how the alphabetic code of English works. This is not done in most of our schools.
The Phonic Approach
"The Phonic Approach" is one of the established methods of teaching children to read and write English. Its main rival is "The Whole Language" approach. The Whole Language approach presents children with words without exploring the sounds of the component letters. The child is expected to become familiar with the look of the word and remember the spoken word to which it corresponds.
The Phonic Approach, by contrast, introduces children firstly to the letters of the alphabet and their basic sounds. Beginning with simple words, children learn how words are formed from these component letters. English uses combinations of letters (eg: sh, th, etc.) to make particular sounds. And there are of course some English words whose spelling does not conform to any phonic principles. These words must still be learned as "whole words".
Objections to the whole word approach include the fact that children cannot decipher words they have never seen and are therefore at the mercy of their schooling for their vocabulary. With the phonic approach children can learn whole families of words at once - for example the ay words.
Having learned the sound of ay the student can then read: bay, day, gay, hay, lay, may, pay, ray, say, way, stay, play, pray, tray, sway, etc.
Phonic Reading System
Before you start to read the Fitzroy Readers, you must learn the basic sound of each letter - A for APPLE, B for BOY, C for CAT etc.
As well as basic sounds, there are extra sounds, represented by digraphs such as AY, ALL or EW. Words which are spelled according to the basic sounds of English and the extra sounds of English are sounding words. Basic sounds and extra sounds are phonic rules. Most English words are spelled according to phonic rules.
Fitzroy Reader story teaches a new phonic rule. For example,
Before you read each Fitzroy Reader, look on the back cover to see what new sound is being used.
Also printed on the back cover of each Fitzroy Reader are the special words used in the new story. These are words which do not follow the phonic rules we have learned so far.
Some words are special words because they do not follow any phonic rule, for example, EYE and THEIR. These are not sounding words, but must simply be learned by rote.
There are some words in each story whose phonic rule has not been learned yet. For example, the word WITH in Story 7.
The word WITH will be listed as a special word for story 7. This word will have to be learned before reading Story 7.
Later, in Story 27, the phonic rule concerning TH will be learned, and WITH will no longer be a special word.
Fitzroy stories must be studied in numerical order, because later readers
use the phonic rules of earlier readers.
The Fitzroy Method
Welcome to the Fitzroy Readers. The Fitzroy Method is the most modern, most efficient and easiest way to learn to speak, read and write English.
With the Fitzroy Method, we do not simply learn English words, one by one. We do something far more efficient. We learn to decode English words. We look at a word and we sound out the letters.
Many English words lend themselves to this practice very readily, easy words like cat and dog. And there are many longer sounding words like picnic, fantastic, and expect.
We provide stories for children to read. The first several stories are deliberately written with words which are easily decoded in this simple way. These early books establish the concept of reading by decoding. This also builds confidence and gets children reading English very quickly.
Beyond this very simple group, there are many English words that are easy to decode once the necessary ·secret· codes are learned · for example, the letters ·ee· together represent the sound ee as in tree. Once they have learned this simple rule, they are immediately able to read out a whole family of words such as bee, bleed, deep, feed, jeep, see, seen, steep, street, teen, weed, etc
Each Fitzroy Reader (storybook) introduces a new code such as ·ee· and then presents a story for children emphasizing the ee sound. The story also uses all the words we have previously learned to read and spell.
Thus we are reading steadily all the way through the curriculum. We do not have to wait until we have learned a great many words before we can read interesting stories. When we learn each new spelling code, we suddenly acquire not just one new word, but many new words all at once · all the words which use that spelling pattern.
As we move on, we learn some more elaborate patterns such as the a-e, where the two letters a and e are separated by a letter, as in bake, cake, date, fame, game, hate, lake, make, name, rake, same, tame, wake, etc. Once again we learn many new words all at once. Similarly for i-e as in time, o-e as in poke, and u-e as in flute.
And once again, as we introduce each new spelling pattern, we present a new story that includes many words with that new pattern · as well as any of the words we have learned before. Progress is very fast using this technique. There are some spelling codes that use 3 or 4 letters. Take for example, all as in ball, fall, tall, hall, etc. Later in the program, we present patterns such as tion as in action, nation, fraction, etc.
Of course there are some words which do not obey these rules. There are 50 very common small English words which must be learned by sight. Words such as a, of, the, to, you, etc.
We introduce 1 or 2 of these "sight" words with each early story, clearly warning the student that these are special words that do not follow the rules. We call these special words so that students will not confuse themselves by trying to sound them out.
If you do not count these 50 most common sight words, over 95% of written English does conform to the code rules that we teach.
There are some words that have odd spellings such as eye and yacht. We present a few of these special words with each of the later stories for older children. This way, only a few words of English must be learned by heart for each story.
Many thousands of children have experienced breakthroughs in learning English from the Fitzroy Readers.
In Australia, more than 3500 schools have bought the Fitzroy Readers. In Singapore, it has grant its footing that apart from Schools, parents are using them! We recommend them to you.
Age Levels for Fitzroy Readers
(It is best not to skip a pack of readers unless you are sure the child has learned the new sounds presented in them (ay, all ew, etc) and the special words (said, through, etc). These sounds and special words are assumed in all later readers.)
Rough Guide - Fitzroy Readers and Age Levels
Reading Recovery Levels Table
*Legend: RRL: Reading Recovery Level, Sequence: Sequence Within Level, Reader: Fitzroy Reader Number, Title: Title of Story, Pack: Pack.
Ultimately the strength of any educational institution, be it a kindergarten, primary school or university, rests on the quality of its teaching personnel. Fundamental to this teacher quality is teacher training. Get the training right and you're over halfway to success.
The only program endorsed by Fitzroy Programs, creators of the Fitzroy Method. The Fitzroy workshops are held regularly at the Da Vinci seminar room, September 21 Enterprise Pte Ltd. It provides teachers with the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure that they get the most from their students and teaching material. The course is comprehensive, lively and hands-on. Upon its completion participants will be equipped with everything they need to know to teach the Fitzroy Method with confidence, skill - and a sense of pleasure. Units include:
the strength of any educational institution, be it a kindergarten,
primary school or university, rests on the quality of its teaching
personnel. Fundamental to this teacher quality is teacher training.
Get the training right and you're over halfway to success.
If you have any questions regarding the Fitzroy Program send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
All rights reserved. September 21 Enterprise, 2010