Phonics is essential to teaching reading

Although the reading wars between phonics and whole language continue, increasing evidence shows that the former is winning (“Nonprofit Trains Teachers on the ABCs of Reading in the Classroom,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4). The latest evidence comes from New York City, where only 28 percent of children in public schools there in the 4th grade were proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017.

That was before a nonprofit called Early Reading Matters began coaching  teachers in 34 high-poverty schools how to use phonics.  The approach has resulted in raising reading proficiency from 29 percent to 38 percent. Sadly, too many teacher-preparation programs don’t give teachers the wherewithal on how to teach reading.

I learned how to read by teachers who used phonics.  We learned how letters represented sounds by being asked to follow teachers as they read aloud to us, periodically stopping and asking us to pick up where they left off.  The strategy was most effective.  I never understood why whole language replaced phonics.

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2 Replies to “Phonics is essential to teaching reading”

  1. Phonics vs. whole-language seems, to me, like an issue that should be left to the reading experts and to peer-reviewed research. My gut says that phonics is more likely to work, but perhaps that’s mostly because my generation learned entirely by phonics.


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