It’s over 40 years since the introduction of the Initial Teaching Alphabet, which was devised to teach young children to read. But many people found it did them no favours in the long run?

Why do you suppose the above sentence says? Chances are that you will only be able to decipher it if you are a child of the 1960s who went to a progressive school.

It’s written in the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA), a system designed by Sir James Pitman – grandson of the man who devised Pitman’s shorthand – to help young children learn to read more quickly.

It uses the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and another 14 characters to represent sounds such as “oo” and “th”. Sentences written in ITA are all in lower case.

It was introduced into several English schools in 1961, and soon spread to the United States and Australia.

New pupils – and their parents – were expected to read and spell using the expanded alphabet. Once they reached seven years old, the children had to switch to the standard alphabet and accepted spellings.

Illogical and inconsistent

Sir James’s aim was to aid dyslexics and end illiteracy by providing children with a logical spelling system, in which words were made up of speech sounds.

After all, about 13% of English words are not spelt the way they sound.

And, according to research published today, children take longer to learn basic reading skills in English than in other European languages.

Professor Philip Seymour, of the University of Dundee, says this is mainly because of the complex syllable structure and inconsistent spelling system of English. ( source BBC News

Talk to anyone today who was taught to read through i.t.a. (Initial Teaching Alphabet) and they will almost invariably tell you how they’ve never been able to spell correctly since.

In the video below XP Guru Gary blackwell talks through his experience as a child with ITA and how it can effect people into adulthood.