Why aren’t kids being taught to read?
According to a fascinating article published on September 10, 2018, by Emily Hanford with APMReports, scientific research has shown us how kids learn to read and the best way to teach them to do so. Unfortunately, many educators either don’t know the science or, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of children are being set up to fail. You should realize that these are our children and grandchildren.
Trouble for the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Public School System
In 2015, Jack Silva, the chief academic officer for the public schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, identified a real problem in his school system: Only 56 percent of third-graders in his district received proficient scores on the state reading test.
However, this “problem” is not exclusively found in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In fact, it is quite widespread!
Educators have long blamed America’s poor reading performance on poverty. And truthfully, there is plenty of poverty in Bethlehem. Once a booming steel town, Bethlehem now struggles to survive.
But there are wealthy homes in Bethlehem as well. And Silva discovered that many kids at the more affluent schools weren’t reading very well either. The problem cannot be attributed to poverty. By many estimates, one-third of America’s struggling readers are from college-educated families.
Scientists know the cause …
Educators assume that learning to read is a natural process, much like learning to talk. We are born wired to talk. Children learn to talk be being talked to and being surrounded by spoken language. But scientific research has revealed that reading doesn’t come naturally. The human brain isn’t wired to read.
The human brain must be explicitly taught how to connect sounds with letters. According to scientists, reading is not wired into our minds like talking is. This is because human beings didn’t develop written language until about a few thousand years ago. That is relatively recent in evolutionary terms.
To read, structures in our brain that were designed for things such as object recognition must be rewired just a bit. That process is known as phonics.
We never looked at brain research. We had never, ever looked at it. Never.Jodi Frankelli, Supervisor of Early Learning
In this case, this science is solid and accepted.
According to Emily’s article, there are literally thousands of studies that prove this. And in fact, this is the most studied areas in human learning. Unfortunately, too many teachers nationwide are not being taught reading science in their teacher preparation programs because the faculty in colleges of education either don’t know the science or dismiss it. As a result of their intransigence, millions of kids have been set up to fail.
According to a 2016 article in the Journal of Childhood and Developmental Disorders, contributing to this problem is the fact that, at the university level, faculty in many schools of education have ignored the scientific knowledge that informs reading acquisition.” As a result, new teachers educated at these institutions often fail to receive the necessary training.
There is hope!
The Bethlehem school system instituted a curriculum in early elementary grades that mix teacher-directed whole-class phonics lessons with small-group activities. The program is designed to meet the needs of children at different points in the process of learning to read. The results have been phenomenal.
But parents must step up …
There has long been a trend in our public school system to dumb down the education our children get. It started in the sixties when I was in school. Fortunately for me, it was just getting started. I learned phonics and diagramming sentences, multiplication tables, etc.
Another failure is the Common Core standard. We have just graduated the first class to come up within the Common Core curriculum, and, according to studies, this class is the least prepared to enter college than any in our history. But … that is another topic altogether.
Parents must take a stand and demand that real, proven education practices be used in our school system. Jumping on every half-baked new teaching scheme that comes down the educational pike is essentially an experiment that will affect your child’s future. And, so far, their record is pretty abysmal.
I worked in college admissions for many years. I remember a time when I was talking to a mother who was writing her daughter’s personal essay.
If this woman’s daughter could not write a 500-word essay on why she wanted to attend the University of Tennessee, how could she ever hope to complete her studies?
Emil Hanford’s article goes into a lot more detail, citing other studies and materials. If you have children in school or if you care about the state of public education in this country, you should read this article. You can read the complete article here. There is also an audio file if you prefer to listen to it.