The other day
I read a statement
made by a current
that talked about today’s classroom methods
for teaching our children
how to read,
and I was just grieved at the absurdity of what it said.
It indicated that young children
need to begin
their reading education
with a two-step process:
Step 1 – Learn to
sight read whole words
Step 2 – Learn to
break down those whole words
into smaller segments.
This is absurd
because it’s a backwards way
to learn to read.
I printed the statement,
I put the words and ideas
that concerned me
in blue letters.
Here’s how the complete statement read:
“ Phonological processing is one of the earliest requirements for successful reading. This is the understanding of how letters correspond to different sounds in a language, such as, how a ‘d’ sounds like “duh” and “w” sounds like “wuh.” …But this concept can be complicated for little minds to grasp. First, children have to be able to break words down into individual letters, assign the letters to sounds, and blend the sounds together to make a word. Breaking words apart into individual sounds, or phonemes, can be tough. This skill is called decoding, referring to the idea that reading is breaking a “code” of letters and sounds. Kids who have difficulty at this level of reading are often noticed in kindergarten or first grade when these skills are taught.”
Ok, so why does it bother me that this statement claims that children should start their reading education by:
First – learning to sight read whole words
Second – learning to break those whole words apart?
I am concerned because a grave number of children who learn to read in this backwards way quickly become struggling readers. They never learn to sound out words from left to right.
Moreover, these young children who struggle in reading soon grow into older children who struggle in reading.
Let’s examine more closely some of the current classroom ideas shared in the statement (ideas printed in blue) that I truly believe to be backwards methods of reading instruction in order to understand why children should not start their reading education learning to sight read and memorize “whole” words.
The following statements
printed in blue
are the current
that I believe
should concern us:
A) “this concept can be complicated for little minds to grasp. First, children have to be able to break words down into individual letters”
Why is this statement incorrect? Why are little children (“little minds”) required to break apart “whole” words to get to the smaller letters so they can “figure out” the sounds of the letters? This strategy used in American schools across this nation, this strategy of giving beginning readers whole words to memorize and break apart, is completely backwards. Little children should not start out reading “whole” words. Instead, little children should first learn the individual letter sounds that make up those whole words. After that, children should learn how to blend those sounds together to form words. Eventually, they will learn how to sound out every word on every page they encounter, sounding out each word from left to right.
B) “children have to…assign the letters to sounds”
Why is this statement incorrect? Beginning readers should not be given the task of sight reading big words and then matching the sounds they hear in those big words to the letters that represent those sounds. This is backwards. Yet this is what American public schools are doing. Our educational classroom methods are asking children to sight read big words before they have learned the sounds inside those big word and how to blend those sounds together in order to read those big words.
When little children are taught to sight read and memorize whole words without first learning to blend together all the letter sounds within those words, they are learning to read through a method called “embedded phonics.” Embedded phonics is not real phonics, and it is dangerous. Embedded phonics coupled with the sight-reading/guided reading techniques in our schools today is causing enormous numbers of children to “guess” at words. Click here to read more about the difference between explicit phonics and embedded phonics.
C) “ Breaking words apart into individual sounds, or phonemes, can be tough”
Why is this statement incorrect? It’s incorrect because it should be tough to break words apart. Of course, our classrooms have made it tough by teaching our children to sight read and memorize whole words instead of first teaching our children the individual letters and blends inside those words. It creates quite a problem for a child when he is asked to break apart a “whole” word into its individual letter sounds when he doesn’t know what those letter sounds are or what they sound like. The task before him quickly becomes nothing but a big guessing game. Learning to read should not be an overwhelming task. Learning to read is a step-by-step process of learning letter sounds. learning to blend those sounds together from left to right, so that in time, a child can sound out every word on every page.
D) “reading is breaking a “code” of letters and sounds”
Why is this statement incorrect?
Learning to read DOES NOT require children to break a code of letters and sounds.
Learning to read DOES require children to learn the code of letters and sounds.
In other words, children who are still trying to break the code of individual letter sounds within “whole” words are children who have never learned the code of letters and sounds in the first place.
E) “Kids who have difficulty at this level of reading are often noticed in kindergarten or first grade when these skills are taught.”
Why does this statement cause me grief?
It grieves me because most of these kids should not be having difficulties learning to read.
It grieves me because:
None of those children are acquiring the necessary skills to recognize the sounds represented by individual letters.
Most of those children will make up the 8 million kids who are going to reach grades 4 through 12 that are still struggling to read.
Most of those children will make up the 70% of kids who will not be reading at grade level by the time they reach the 8th grade.
None of those children will have access to the rich morsels of the English language, of their country’s history, of mathematical concepts, of current events, of literature, or of science when they enter the fourth grade that they could have had access to if they’d learned to read correctly when they were little.
So many of those children are going to mistakenly be labeled with dyslexia and other reading difficulties when, in fact, if they’d learned to sound out words correctly when they were little, they would have never struggled in reading at all.
Fortunately, it is NOT TRUE that the older a child is, the more difficult it is to teach him or her to read.
Fortunately, it is NOT TRUE that the window of opportunity to learn to read closes when a child gets older.
Fortunately, it is NOT TRUE that if a child can’t read by the end of third grade, odds are that he or she will never catch up.
Fortunately, it is NOT TRUE that children who have struggled in reading must continue dealing with a low self image.
Fortunately, it is NOT TRUE that children who have struggled in reading must continue battling with frustration, anger, and defeatism.
Children, both young and old,
who are taught to read
with a step-by-step phonics-first curriculum
do not need to face all those struggles!