3 Lies Schools Like to Tell About Learning to Read

There’s a war going on in a lot of schools, and it ain’t pretty. Helping your child readBy war I mean the tired argument about the best way to teach kids, especially LD kids, to read.

And while it may be nice to believe that schools have your child’s best interests at heart, experience has shown again and again that schools are institutions that cater to the group, and not necessarily to the individual child.

Maybe you’re lucky, and your child is in one of the few schools that is insistent on making sure every single one of their children learns to read, no matter what it takes. Unfortunately, however, there are too many schools out there who are unwilling to do what needs to be done in order to make sure your LD child learns to read.

If you hear staff at your child’s school spout one of the following lies, take note, and teach your child to read yourself (I’ll share with you in a later post the best way to do that). Here’s the list:

Lie #1: They’re not ready yet.

This is school-ease for: we don’t know how to teach your child to read.

If your child is over the age of 5, they need to be taught to read. Waiting longer than that means it will just take that much longer for your child to catch up with the rest of the class. While the school waits for your child to be ready, they’ll just fall further and further behind, until it becomes almost impossible for your child to catch up.

Research has shown that kids who don’t learn to read well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers.

You don’t have time to wait for your child to learn to read well.

Lie #2: We’re using an explicit, systematic phonics program – it’s the best way to teach your child to read.

Actually, while research agrees that teaching children phonics is an important component of teaching reading, there is no research that shows which kind of program is best, despite what publishers of popular phonics programs may claim.

Nor is there conclusive research that proves what the best sequence is to teach phonics, nor how often it needs to be taught in order to make sure kids learn now to decode efficiently.

The truth is that different kids learn differently. Of my 8 children, one taught himself to read at the age of 3, another seemed to pick it up intuitively with very little teaching, and one knew only 6 letters while the rest of his class read fluently.

How well a particular learning disabled child learns to read will depend greatly on their learning profile. If they have trouble remembering what they hear, for example, then using phonics exclusively will be devastating for them.

On the other hand, if they have trouble remembering what they see, then sight words will have you both crying at the end of the day.

Lie #3: Kids can acquire good reading skills by reading meaningful literature.

This is only partially true. While children can acquire some reading skills by reading quality literature, they can’t learn to read just by reading. While whole language methods sound great, they are not enough to teach any child to read, much less a child with learning disabilities.

People have been arguing about the best way to teach children to read for more than 50 years. For the moment it’s phonics – until some variation of whole language rears its head again, after test scores from years of phonics-dosed children shows more dismal reading scores.

Statistics show that the best method of teaching children to read involves a mix of everything: good literature, phonics, and whole language.

What difference does it make what schools say?

The fact is that no one method is best for teaching children  – especially LD children to read. We do know, however, that the best methods use multisensory, systematic instruction to teach children to read. But one child may do best with Orton-Gillingham, while another might only catch onto reading when taught the Montessori way.

Instead, some schools insist on using methods that don’t work, simply because that’s the way the wind was blowing that year. That’s unacceptable, especially since we know how critical good reading is for school (and life) success.

Yes, maybe some people have managed without being able to read well, but that’s not a best-case scenario. It may not be exciting, but the facts speak for themselves: no single intervention will work for all children.

If you want your child to learn to read – and ultimately it is your responsibility – you might just have to search and try out different methods until you find one that works for your child.

 

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