How do young children learn to read and write? This seems a straightforward enough question although it has been studied by generations of researchers, and it is still under intense scrutiny today. While we might reasonably expect that there would be some movement towards consensus by now, anyone who reads the newspaper, listens to concerned parents, or watches television, will be aware of the ongoing and sometimes heated debates on this topic. The debate often focuses on those ever elusive strategies for 'failure-proofing' early teaching of reading and writing, and on achieving the standards in literacy that are reportedly declining - the search for the one, true, fail-proof method! This Chapter will attempt to foreground some of the complex issues underpinning both the first question and those ongoing debates.