Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

Reading Instruction Should Be Reoriented

August 20, 2012 1 min read

To the Editor:

In the Commentary “Dear Data, Please Make Yourself More Useful” (May 23, 2012), Brad C. Phillips and Jay J. Pfeiffer plead for education data that can be drawn upon to change schools for the better. I believe that their plea was answered in another Commentary that appears in the same issue.

Anthony Palumbo’s “Unlocking Literacy for Intellectual Growth” (May 23, 2012) documents a hundred years of Americans’ failure to teach their schoolchildren to read. Mr. Palumbo notes that 25 percent of the draftees of our two world wars proved to be illiterate. He notes that the reading achievement of our schoolchildren has continued to fall, forcing the SAT to renorm its tests because they had become too hard for our students. The No Child Left Behind Act produced no improvement. In fact, the verbal scores on the 2011 SAT were the lowest ever recorded.

Such data would seem to point unambiguously to one conclusion: Phonics and whole language, our two methods of teaching reading, are not doing the job. Phonics states firmly that no one can learn to read without knowing the short vowel sounds. However, anyone who seeks data on this subject will discover that about 60 percent of the vowels in any English paragraph are not pronounced with their short sound at all, but with vowel-sound associations that phonics does not teach. Phonics students will be forced by such instruction to distort those words so badly that they can make no sense of the sentence, or paragraph, or story that they are trying to read, which accounts for those falling scores.

It would seem obvious that the best way to improve our schools from 1st grade to 12th grade is to abandon our nonfunctional reading teaching practices and replace them with an approach that works.

Here, a little more data may prove the solution to the vowel problem. Three alphabetic languages—Hebrew, Arabic, and Farsi—work perfectly well without any vowel letters in their alphabets. We can solve our vowel problems easily by copying those languages and using the consonant sounds to identify written words in the context of sentences, paragraphs, and stories. Of course, that is the same discovery that has been made by those many children who every year teach themselves to read before they even enter school.

Helen Andrejevic

Former elementary school teacher

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the August 22, 2012 edition of Education Week as Reading Instruction Should Be Reoriented

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
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
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
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
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Washington Data Processing Representative - (WAVA)
Tacoma, Washington, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

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
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
These Top 5 Tips will help you get 90% of your Students Reading at Grade Level
So what does it take to get to achieve over 90% of students reading at or above grade level? Read our top 5 tips to find out!
Content provided by Learning Ovations
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
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
The Best Kept Secret Every K-3 Literacy Initiative Needs
In this whitepaper, you will read about how our professional support system has been proven to get over 90% of students reading at, or above, grade-level.
Content provided by Learning Ovations
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on the Science of Reading
In this Spotlight, review what the science says about reading and rediscover the struggles commonly seen.
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
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Disciplinary Literacy: Strategies for Success
In this white paper, Angela Singer suggests that it is the responsibility of all educators to incorporate literacy instruction that promo...
Content provided by Mentoring Minds