I was emailed a story at American Public Media Reports entitled “Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?” by Emily Hanford.
The article discusses the battle between teaching kids phonics or whole language, and the article points out that the real loser of the “reading war” was science, in that kids are not being taught in a way that is proven to work for most children.
Read this excerpt discussing “balanced literacy” which is described as
“Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.”
He says the reading wars are over, and science lost.
Seidenberg knows of a child who was struggling so much with reading that her mother paid for a private tutor. “The tutor taught her some of the basic skills that the child wasn’t getting in her whole language classroom,” he said. “At the end of the school year the teacher was proud that the child had made so much progress, and the parent said, ‘Well, why didn’t you teach phonics and other basic skills related to print in class?’ And the teacher said ‘Oh, I did. Your child was absent that day.'”
For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read.
Experts say that in a whole-language classroom, some kids will learn to read despite the lack of effective instruction. But without explicit and systematic phonics instruction, many children won’t ever learn to read very well.
Some kids will learn how to read in spite of the classroom instruction they’ve received. Wow, that’s a statement.