It is so sad to hear when a young child says he wants to kill himself because he can’t read as described in the interview linked at the end of this piece. It is uplifting to hear how a parent turned this child’s life around by getting him assessed and starting him on a structured literacy program. But what about less informed or well-to-do parents? How can they help their child?
While schools are supposed to be fully equipped with knowledge about effective teaching of reading, too often that is not the case. Luckily this parent was able to help steer the school toward the Science of Reading, and the school listened.
But when you have people who decide on education policy showing ignorance about what the science of reading tells us about reading – that makes me angry. Many schools use “balanced literacy” or “mixed methods” of teaching to read because they believe that students are all different and that teaching them to read in “different ways” aligns with this belief. The problem is they don’t understand that there are fundamentally two methods of teaching reading: 1. decoding (sounding out the letter/s in the word) 2. guessing (looking for any cues which are not in the word: picture, context, syntax, what makes sense?)
The suffering of this pupil, and countless others could be avoided if all schools taught reading in line with the Science of Reading.
So what does science say about how we should teach children to read?
“In reality, only teaching letter-to-sound allows children to blossom, because only this method gives them the freedom to read novel words in any domain they choose. It is therefore misguided to pit the intellectual freedom of a child against rigorous drill. If a child is to learn to read quickly and well, he must be given well-structured grapheme-phoneme instruction. The effort is real, but the payoff in independence is immediate when children discover, often with awe, that they can decipher words they never learned in class”. – Stanlistas Dahaene, Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read p. 227
To conclude: science tells us we all learn to read in the same way. Some will find it more difficult than others. They may need smaller steps and more practice.
The question that should be asked is: Why don’t schools know this? Moreover, why don’t policy makers know this?
This parent began advising other parents who, while home-schooling in lockdown, witnessed their kids’ lack of decoding skills. She found a way forward not only for her own son, but also for other parents’ children. We are delighted that our books, as shown in this interview, have played a part in helping these kids learn to read.
#phonics #learntoread #teachreading #science of reading #decoding