For some decades, world-wide, there have been national initiatives toimprove literacy rates and standards. During the same period, concentrated research studies have been undertaken to find out howbest to achieve the desired improvements. Two main thrusts inteaching and learning how to read and write have emerged, often incontroversy. One is generally known as the 'whole language'approach and the other concentrates more on instruction in phonics. What works? This paper focuses on the theoretical assumptionsunderlying these two approaches to the teaching of literacy, and thestudies which have bee.