For many years, schools have taught children to read using ineffective strategies for struggling readers; using a theory about reading that reading research and cognitive scientists have repeatedly refuted. Yet, still many teachers and parents don't know there's anything wrong with it.
For some people like Sydney, sounds and letters just don’t just make sense!
Sydney is a mother of two and a business accountant who got good grades in school, played sports and was a leader in clubs and school activities however she couldn’t read very well and certainly didn’t enjoy it.
Sydney brought her son, Joel to me for reading help when he was in second grade. Sydney had attended school in Calgary, but both of her children attended public school in Medicine Hat, Alberta. During our initial discussion, Sydney shared her own reading journey with me. “There was no rhyme or reason to reading for me,” she stated as she shrugged her shoulders. “When a teacher would dictate a word and say, ‘Spell it out loud,’ I sat there with my mouth hanging while the other kids gave spellings, and I thought, ‘How or where do I even begin?’ I was totally lost.
‘Sounds and letters just don’t make sense to me,’ Sydney exclaimed as she shrugged her shoulders and continued on saying, 'I don't remember anyone teaching me how to read. So I came up with my own strategies to get through a reading selection.' Here are 3 the strategies she shared that she used to get her through reading.
Strategy 1: Memorize as many words as possible. "Words were like pictures to me," she said. "I have a really good memory."
Strategy 2: Guess the words based on context. If she came across a word she didn't have in her memory, she'd look at the first letter and come up with a word that seemed to make sense. Reading was kind of like the classic game of 20 Questions: What could this word be?
Strategy 3: If all else failed, she'd skip the words she didn't know. Which she does even to this day.
Most of the time, she would get the idea of what she was reading. But reading a book took forever. "I hate reading because it is so much WORK," she stated emphatically. "I get through a chapter and my brain hurts by the end of it.” Sadly, she wasn't excited to read or learn during school or even outside of work now.
No one knew how much she struggled, not even her parents. Her reading strategies were her own “secret reading tricks."
Last year, Sydney was volunteering in her son, Joel's classroom. The class was doing guided reading together and the teacher was telling the children to practice the strategies that good readers use.
The teacher said, "If you don't know the word, just look at this picture up here," Sydney recalled. "There was a raccoon and butterfly in the picture. And the word was raccoon, and the teacher said, 'Look at the first letter. It's "r." Is it raccoon or butterfly?'"
Sydney was shocked. "I thought, 'Oh my goodness, those are my same 'secret reading tricks.' That's what I taught myself to do; not the things that good readers do," she said. "These kids were being taught my ineffective 'secret reading tricks.'"
She went to the teacher and expressed her concerns. The teacher told her she was teaching reading the way the curriculum told her to.
Sydney had stumbled onto North America’s education secret about reading instruction: Elementary schools across the country are teaching children to be poor readers — and educators and parents likely do not even know it. She immediately booked an appointment with me requesting that I teach her son to read and give him effective reading strategies that will make him a good reader so he can enjoy reading!
For decades, reading instruction in North American schools has been rooted in a flawed theory about how reading works, a theory that was refuted decades ago by cognitive scientists, yet remains deeply rooted in reading instructional practices and curriculum materials; a theory that reading is a visual memory process. As a result, the strategies that struggling readers use to get by — memorizing words, using context to guess words, skipping words they don't know — are the strategies that many beginning readers are taught in school to this day. This makes it harder for many kids to learn how to read, and children who don't get off to a good start in reading find it difficult to ever master the process. This is well researched and documented in the article, Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. The article clearly shows how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer when it comes to reading, exactly what Sydney has experienced her entire life.
A shocking number of kids in both Canada and the United States can't read very well. A third of all fourth-graders can't read even at a basic level, and most students are still not proficient readers by the time they finish high school. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2019, 32 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders aren't reading at a basic level. A little less than 35 percent are proficient or advanced.
It is disheartening to think that what Sydney relied on to get through school is exactly what children are being taught today in Canadian and U.S. classrooms when learning to read.
When kids struggle to learn how to read, it can lead to a downward spiral in which behavior, vocabulary, knowledge and other cognitive skills are eventually affected by slow reading development as indicated in What are these Matthew Effects? with many references to research.
If being a poor reader isn't damaging enough, the fact that a large number of poor readers become high school dropouts and end up in the criminal justice system is even worse. About 16 percent of children who are not reading proficiently by the end of the third grade do not graduate from high school as documented in the article, Double Jeopardy. Reading failure is most likely a cause, not just a correlation, that does result in delinquent behavior.
The fact that a refuted theory about how reading works is still being used in the classroom to this day, driving reading instruction and the way many children are taught to read, is a BIG part of the problem. School districts spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on curriculum materials that include this theory. Teachers are taught this same theory in universities and colleges as part of their teacher preparation and when they are teaching in the classroom. Teachers and parents alike are being misled to believe that these are practices good readers use and our children continue to suffer and become poor readers in the process. As long as this disproved theory remains part of our educational curriculum in reading instruction, many kids will likely struggle to learn how to read and develop into poor readers who don't like to read.
As one reading this blog, you are obviously looking for answers! Your students or your child can have a much different outcome if you follow a different course of instruction. Based on my 30 years of reading instruction and research I suggest you teach reading using an easy-to-follow systematic approach to reading. Reading needs to be explicitly taught and broken down into digestible parts that will build a reader's confidence and ability to read new words with accuracy. Ultimately what you want is to set them up with a strong decoding foundation giving them the skills to read unfamiliar words with accuracy and fluency. Every child regardless of diagnosis can learn to read using the Bright Future Reading System. We have taught thousands and thousands of children with varying abilities and diagnoses how to read using our systematic phonics program Bright Futures Reading System with success and confidence. Not only can our students read, they also understand what they are reading and enJOY it!
There is absolutely no reason children need to come up with their own, “secret reading tricks” that are messy, ineffective and lead to slow, frustrated readers. The online Bright Future Reading System, available anywhere and anytime, is the most effective way to learn to read, and takes ALL the guesswork out of reading!
Near the end of the 14 days, either….
1. Let us know that you want to cancel your access or
2. Keep your access to the membership for only $29 month.
It’s really quite stunning what you will have at your fingertips as an Early Readers Academy insider to our Bright Future Reading System!
JOIN now for just one dollar and try out the Early Readers Academy for 14 days.
Go through the first couple of units.
Test the teaching and student resources.
Implement the activities with your child, a student or a group of students.
Ask questions in our Teacher and Parent support lounge and get answers from reading coaches and me.
As we’ve grown our membership this year, I’ve witnessed the transformative impact of Early Readers Academy reading activities for so many children and students. As a result, I now have no doubt that those teachers who go through our course will accelerate their readers faster than they ever dreamed possible.
SO, I want everyone to give it a try!
I’m so confident that most of you will be pleasantly blown away, that I want to make testing out the Early Readers Academy irresistible.
(Hence, the first time ever $1 price tag for new members)
Join us before this Cyber Monday deal closes down December 1 at 9 pm MDT!
Here’s to making great readers,
P.S. If you’re not sure how to get your child reading or that your child’s reading skills are where they need to be, let Early Readers Academy help! Whether you want your child to catch up on his or her reading skills or jump ahead with activities that enrich and challenge them, Early Readers Academy and online tutors take the stress out of learning and make it personal and engaging for your child.
Come along and experience reading success like never before!
Mary Printz aka Miss Mary is the co-founder of Early Readers Academy and Accelerated Potential Academy. She is a seasoned educational consultant, researcher, Reading Consultant and Developer and International speaker. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org