The Government's preferred method of teaching children to read is "almost a form of abuse" against bright youngsters, according to an academic.
Forcing able young readers to follow a "rigid diet" of phonics teaching is an "affront to their emerging identities", according to Andrew Davis, a research fellow at Durham University's School of Education.
In a new pamphlet he says children who are already reading for pleasure when they start school can become demotivated if they are forced to follow a system that is based on simply decoding letters.
Ministers have been promoting "synthetic phonics", a system which focuses on sounds rather than recognising whole words and meanings, as the best way to raise reading standards. The method involves pupils sounding out or decoding words.
Dr Davis suggests children need to be able to grasp the meaning behind words and texts, rather than just how to sound out words.