Reading is the single most important skill that children learn at school. Without reading, everything else proceeds slowly.
American children are taught to read in two different ways: phonics or sight-words. This is unfortunate. As English is a phonetic language, phonics should be the default setting for teaching this skill.
Progressive educators forced Whole Word into the classrooms starting around 1930. The results have been disastrous. Our country now has 50 million functional illiterates.
Many graduate schools of education teach dogmatic untruths about reading. Young teachers, having been told that up is down, teach Whole Word in good faith. It’s important to look clearly at what this method is actually asking children to do. They have to learn words as diagrams. It is very difficult to memorize hundreds of diagrams (of any kind). It is almost impossible to memorize thousands.
Today, the prevailing fad is called Balanced Literacy. The end result is that the child reads some words phonetically and some visually. This induces a disastrous sort of cognitive schizophrenia.
The best thing that teachers can do for their students is to avoid sight-words entirely. All phonics experts say they can teach virtually every child to read by the end of first grade. Whole Word doesn’t even promise literacy by the sixth grade, if ever.
If you have any doubts about how reading should be taught, please read this short booklet (an 8-page pdf).
By: Bruce Deitrick Price (Improve-Education.org)
Keywords: reading, literacy, phonics, whole word, sight words, illiteracy, alphabet, sounds, comprehension, Rudolf Flesch, functional illiterates, high-frequency words, look-say