Most children can learn how to read with best practice instruction – the type which has been scientifically proven time and time again – systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction.
Reading is a skill that needs to be taught properly in order to be learned. Sadly though, many teachers were never taught how to teach phonics at university, as well as how to teach handwriting, spelling and grammar. When I went to teachers college (as a mature age student), I wanted to do an assignement about how to teach reading and spelling using phonics instruction because for years I had worked as an integration aide at schools and had come across many children who could not read or spell. They would just get put up to the next grade, still illiterate. These poor little kids often had low self esteem and sometimes behavioural problems (so that they could get sent out of the class to cover up their shame and inability to read). I told my English lecturer that I wanted to do my 4th year assignment on Phonics because I had often read that systematic, synthetic phonics was the best way to teach reading. Strangely, she went and retrieved a book for me about phonics from her bin. She had thrown it out because as in most universities since the 1980s, phonics was neglected and, instead, the Whole Language theory was preached.
Since the 1980s, an ideology known as Whole Language has been favoured by decision makers in education. Advocates of Whole Language have preached that reading is a naturally acquired skill like oral language and so young children could learn to read by being read to. At school, children were taught to ‘read’ by memorization and guessing words using the pictures, if they didn’t know how to sound out words. Phonics instruction, which involves teaching students the sound-spelling relationships so that they can decode, or sound out words – was usually frowned upon. There was also a trend of ‘child discovery’ learning at the cost of time spent having actual instruction. Spelling, grammar and punctuation were also casualties.
But, the Whole Language ideology had come from studies of how confident adult readers read, NOT how most young children NEED to learn how to read. Unfortuantely, the Whole Language notion still has a stronghold in schools today. For years, young teachers have been coming out of uni not knowing how to teach phonics because their uinversity lecturers never taught it. Similarly, they have not been taught how to teach spelling or handwriting, or grammar and punctuation. Universities have taken on the Whole Language theory instead. This is crazy because Australia’s illiteracy rate has been continually growing for years now and repeatedly, scientific research has proven that the best way for children to learn how to read and spell is through systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction from simple to complex https://phonicshero.com/synthetic-phonics/
It’s a real concern if children continue not being able to read after grade 2. This can lead to many sorts of problems – low self-esteem; anxiety; behavioural problems; not being able to learn successfully throughout the school years; underachievement; early dropout from school; illiteracy during adulthood; relationship problems; not being able to access information needed to make good choices; unemployment; and sometimes, detrimental mistakes made during employment.
For those parents looking to help their children learn how to read, you can investigate the evidence-based method known as: systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction and work from simple to more complex. If you haven’t the time or ability, look for a tutor who has trained in this method, eg Christine Phillips at Cornerstone Learning. Most individuals can be taught how to read with this method, even those with Dyslexia. Those who have an intellectual disability can also learn to read, given the right support and adequate time. Children need to be able to read by grade 3 in order to learn successfully throughout their schooling. For adults still wanting to learn how to read though, it is never too late. You would learn with the same sort of instruction, working from what you know already. You can learn how to read with best practice instruction.
Why is there still so much illiteracy in our country and communities?
There seems to be too much illiteracy around these days – children at primary school resorting to negative behaviour to cover up their shame and embarrassment at not being able to read and feeling ‘dumb’ and anxious; kids getting into secondary school still not being able to read and still acting up whilst distracting others and then dropping out; adults who can’t read – have limited access to information and correspondence on the internet; have more difficulty making informed choices; relationships affected; have difficulty gaining and keeping employment which then can lead to poverty and crime. Apparently there are many individuals in the prison system who cannot read. Let’s all stamp out illiteracy.
Most people can learn how to read with best practice instruction!
At Cornerstone Learning Tutoring Services in Ballarat we have successfully taught children and adults to read, using systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction. Our favoured teaching and learning resources come from LEM Phonics Literate for Life. https://www.lemphonics.com/