Phonics leads to faster, better reading for young learners

To provide better insight into the reading process, two researchers created a computer model that learns to read just like children. Mark Seidenberg, PhD., and Michael Harm, PhD. showed that phonics gives early learners an edge, especially as emergent readers.

Initially, Seidenberg and Harm mimicked how toddlers acquire language by exposing the computer model to sounds until it developed a spoken language vocabulary. Afterwards, the researchers showed it word spellings. Then, they asked it to read a variety of words and figure out what they meant. The model could use sounds, visual patterns or a combination of both. By testing different instruction methods, the researchers decided which ones could lead to better readers.

They discovered that the model learned reading faster by initially establishing the connections among spelling, sound, and meaning. Eventually, the computer model learned to read 6,000 words. As it learned more words and spellings, including words that sound alike but are spelled differently, it began to depend more on the visual reading method.

In the eight years since the publication of this study in Psychological Review, researchers and educators continue to gain better understanding of how children learn to read. In fact, many top educational researchers now recommend integrating music into phonological awareness instruction because we now know that the human brain processes music and language in similar ways.

At ABC Music & Me, we stay focused on providing curriculum and teacher training that incorporates the latest literacy and language research. To learn more about using ABC Music & Me in your classroom, email us at




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