Literacy in America:
Research Shows What Works!

with Step-by-Step Parent Advocacy and Resources for Families of Children with Special Needs in Pennsylvania's Public Schools

"The Scope of the Reading Problem in America"

"Reading failure is epidemic in spite of decades of accumulated knowledge about how to teach children to be good readers. According to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), no other skill taught in school … is more important than reading. It is the gateway to all other knowledge. If children do not learn to read efficiently, the path is blocked to every subject they encounter in their school years." ("Reading: The First Chapter in Education", CEC).

"Despite overwhelming evidence, the reading field rushed to embrace unfounded whole-language practices between 1975 and 1995. The effects have been far-reaching, particularly for those students who are most dependent on effective instruction within the classroom." Louisa C. Moats, Ph.D., "Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of 'Balanced' Reading Instruction"

"While this was happening, research was showing that phonics works. According to "How Johnny Should Read", an October, 1997 Time Magazine article, "After reviewing the arguments mustered by the phonics and whole-language proponents, can we make a judgment as to who is right? Yes. The value of explicit, systematic phonics instruction has been well established. Hundreds of studies from a variety of fields support this conclusion. Indeed, the evidence is so strong that if the subject under discussion were, say, the treatment of the mumps, there would be no discussion."

"Contrary to what whole language proponents assert, systematic phonics does not require school days filled with painstaking recital of letters and syllables. According to Reid Lyon, "If kids are at risk, we can address it with 30 minutes of intervention a day at the kindergarten level. By the time children are 8 or 9, it takes at least 2 hours a day of special training." (four times as long). ("Dyslexia and the New Science of Reading", Newsweek, November 22, 1999, )

"Research suggests that "About 70% of children can learn to read no matter how you teach them, but they will read more quickly if they are taught phonics, and without phonics the remaining 30% may have real problems." ("How Johnny Should Read", Time, October 27, 1997)

“There is no way to read if you are not very facile in the use of phonics,” Reid said. Especially for increasing numbers of kids falling into the direst of reading straits, Lyon says “phonics is non-negotiable.” ("The Phonics Revival", Research in Review)

Abracadrabra phonics * simply sprinkle a little phonics into your literature-based program * and poof! * your program is balanced. Of course, one dictionary definition of abracadrabra is “gibberish and nonsense”. We know from a strong consensus of research that effective programs include phonics (among other components), so it is tempting to conclude that simply adding some phonics to a list of activities in an existing program will supply some vital catalyzing ingredient, beef up your program, and thereby make it research-based. However, program effectiveness is not ensured solely by the presence of a portion of this vital program element. It also depends on the proportions in the final curriculum mix, in the quantity and quality of the element, and when and how the curriculum is taught. The proper role of phonics in a literacy program can be compared to a building’s foundation. (Abracadrabra Phonics: Balanced Magic, Dr. Kerry Hempenstall)

"The goal in “whole language” is to read a specific text, not to learn skills that may generalize to all texts. Too much phonics diverts attention from thinking about the content of the text. Phonics should be taught covertly, not overtly. 5 Absurd as it seems, phonics is seen as too boring in and of itself to keep kids’ interest. Is it any wonder, then, that 95% of the kids who don’t read up to par have never been taught appropriately? Teachers need coaching in how to best assess each child’s progress in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Furthermore, teachers must have the training to modify and adjust for each child encountering difficulty. Finally, they need methods for teaching phonics. Only then can students go beyond not only learning to read, but reading to learn." (The Reading Wars Continue, Nancy Salvato,, 8/4/04)

"However, for change to occur, the problem must first be addressed at the college level where future teachers are trained. According to NICHD, 'Many classroom teachers are woefully under-trained in the newest techniques.'" ("Dyslexia and the New Science of Reading" Newsweek, 11/22/99, )

Report of the National Reading Panel

In 1997 Congress passed legislation which called upon a branch of the National Institutes of Health to work with the U.S. Department of Education to create a panel to identify research-based evidence on how to best teach children to read. The report of the National Reading Panel was released in April, 2000.

This report "provides a major breakthrough in reading instruction" and clearly says that the most effective way to teach reading includes instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics.

Read full artical and go to page.

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