Tucked inside this week’s New York Times Sunday Review is a gem entitled, “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way.” We cannot recommend it highly enough because Emily Hanford incisively diagnoses multiple common problems with current general reading instruction, including:
What have scientists figured out? First of all, while learning to talk is a natural process that occurs when children are surrounded by spoken language, learning to read is not. To become readers, kids need to learn how the words they know how to say connect to print on the page. They need explicit, systematic phonics instruction. There are hundreds of studies that back this up. …
…many [teachers] will tell you they learned something different about how children learn to read in their teacher preparation programs. … Kathy Bast, an elementary school principal in Pennsylvania, learned the same thing. “It was just: Put literature in front of the kids, teach the story, and the children will learn how to read through exposure,” she said….
Whole-language proponents dismissed the need for phonics…It “is only through reading that children learn to read. Trying to teach children to read by teaching them the sounds of letters is literally a meaningless activity.”
These ideas had been debunked by the early 2000s. It may seem as if kids are learning to read when they’re exposed to books, and some kids do pick up sound-letter correspondences quickly and easily. But the science shows clearly that to become a good reader, you must learn to decode words. …
Many teachers learn these approaches in their teacher preparation programs. Publishers perpetuate these ideas, and school districts buy in. But colleges of education — which should be at the forefront of pushing the best research — have largely ignored the scientific evidence on reading…..
We know, we know! It’s so tempting to reprint the entire piece here, but just go and read it for yourself and get more familiar with what is already long known about learning to read. And rest assured, Queens Paideia is hip to the current science on how best to teach reading because QPS founder Dr. Francis Mechner has been advocating for it since long before 2000.
We are lucky this year to have heavy hitters Adam Hockman and Sharon Mendoza running action-packed reading skill-building sessions with our youngest students, while Jonathan Acampora and Karyn Slutsky tackle the handwriting and shore up reading instruction with plenty of read-alouds and activities to bring about love of books. These specialized duos work with small groups, and often 1:1, through several modalities, including regular direct instruction and practice practice practice. We are not doing this to race students to the top, but rather because once they know how to read, a world of stories and information will open up to them. And they will be on their way to becoming more independent learners, which is very much the QPS way.