Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

More Books, Not More Phonics

January 11, 2021 1 min read

To the Editor:
A study published by a digital learning company shows that 40 percent of participating 1st graders who took the DIBELS test this fall are below grade level in early literacy skills, “particularly around phonics,” and need intensive intervention to catch up from “COVID-slide” (“Students’ Reading Losses Could Strain Schools’ Capacity to Help Them Catch Up,” Dec. 15, 2020).
The testing revealed gaps in “phoneme segmentation and letter sounds.” Does this mean the children need more phonemic awareness and phonics training?
Neither phonemic-awareness training nor intensive phonics instruction results in better reading comprehension, as discussed in my 2001 and 2009 articles published in Perceptual and Motor Skills and Knowledge Quest, respectively. But studies show that children improve in reading comprehension as a result of reading in areas of great interest to them, according to my research with Jeff McQuillan. Unfortunately, many students living in poverty have less access to books at home, at school, and in local libraries.
In the 2017 book that I co-authored with Christy Lao and Sy-Ying Lee, Comprehensible and Compelling: The Causes and Effects of Free Voluntary Reading, an analysis of studies of 10-year-olds from 40 countries shows that poverty is the strongest predictor of reading achievement in grade 4. It also shows that access to books (school libraries) can reduce or even balance the negative effect of poverty, a result consistent with the findings of Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel. Reading instruction (usually phonics) had either no effect or a negative effect.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.

Related Tags:

A version of this letter appeared in the Jan. 13, 2021 edition of Education Week as “More Books, Not More Phonics.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2021 edition of Education Week as More Books, Not More Phonics

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Popular 'Wonders' Curriculum Shows Gaps in Alignment to Reading Research
A new review claims that the curriculum has gaps in its alignment to reading research, and doesn't offer enough supports for teachers.
6 min read
Image of a girl selecting a book in the library.
Hakase_/iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Pandemic Prompts Some States to Pass Struggling 3rd Graders
As families wrestle with online learning, a pandemic economy and mental health difficulties, some states are delaying 3rd grade retention.
Aallyah Wright, Stateline.org
8 min read
The Mississippi Department of Education offices are seen in Jackson, Miss. on March 19, 2020. The state's board of education decided this winter that it would suspend the retention policy for third graders this year, allowing all students to pass on to the fourth grade even if they fail the standardized reading test.
The Mississippi Department of Education offices are seen in Jackson, Miss. The state's board of education decided this winter that it would suspend the retention policy for 3rd graders this year, allowing all students to pass on to the 4th grade even if they fail the standardized reading test.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Reading & Literacy Opinion Seven Strategies for Grammar Instruction
Five educators share instructional strategies for engaging and effective grammar instruction.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy & Language Education
In this Spotlight, review what may be missing in teacher training and the supports offered to students plus more.