by LK Hunsaker
How should our children learn to read?
I have been fussing for years that my children were not taught phonics in grade school while they were learning to read. Actually, my son was learning them until the schools changed their minds and turned to "whole word" reading instruction instead. This was a major mistake.
We now have whole generations of children who do not know how to figure out how to pronounce a word with which they are not familiar. They do not know how words are put together using prefix, suffix, and root meanings that would help them figure out words they don't already know. Instead, they are supposed to memorize every single word as it is in order to use them all properly. And most of them can not do this well. Think about how many words are in our language. If we cut our kids down to only using the ones they can memorize, how much is that cutting down their knowledge of the English language?
Do you realize how many words kids (and adults) can figure out on their own if they are taught the very simple construction technique of phonics, as well as meanings of prefixes and suffixes and roots? There's the answer to our major reading problem. Learn the basics and the rest will fall into place. Our kids need to learn HOW to learn and how to be able to put the pieces together on their own.
This has been tested and proven true. Ronald Kessler (2004), in his book, A Matter of Character - Inside the White House of George W. Bush, points out that phonics are what work in improving reading ability. He says,
"...liberal politicians and educators ... sneered at requiring regular reading tests in schools. They maintained that blacks and Hispanics, without the cultural advantages of whites, could be expected to fail reading tests. That attitude was what Bush called the 'soft bigotry of low expectations'. In Texas, Bush had proven them dead wrong. By introducing phonics and extra help, he brought the rate of third graders who could not read down from a scandalous 23% to less than 2%. As president, he (is/)was trying -- despite resistance from Democratic politicians, education colleges, and teachers' unions -- to do the same thing nationally. Rather than underfunding programs, as the Democrats maintained he was doing, since taking office he had increased federal spending on education by 49%. He saw children hurting ... he rolled up his sleeves, immersed himself in the scientific evidence about how kids learn to read, and for the first time held schools and teachers accountable for using the only reading method proven to work -- phonics...."
The statistics speak for themselves. From 23% non-readers to 2% because of phonics! We need to make our voices heard and tell our schools we want our children to be taught the basic building blocks of language. We should be hooked on phonics, and so should our children.