Arizona Republic has a good article about the use of phonics in teaching kids how to read.
A 2000 report by the National Reading Panel virtually put an end to “The Reading Wars.” It deemed phonics as critically important combined with whole-word strategies to enhance comprehension.
Basic phonetic rules help children sound out words, but other common words still need to be memorized – words such as “the,” “have,” “were” – because they don’t follow any but the most complicated rules.
Established by Congress in 1997, the panel was charged with a comprehensive review of research on how best to teach children to read. The answer, it said, lies in a balanced approach between methods, combining the best of phonics and whole language with good literature.
“You need all of those pieces to put together a strong reader,” Tankersley said.
For the most part, that is what is happening in Arizona. In a 2003 review of reading programs by a panel appointed by the state Education Department, the ones that ranked best had strong phonics instruction.
The DHM is pleased and amused. The DHM comes from a long line of teachers and school administrators, not all of whom have been equally jubilant about the decision of the HM and the DHM to homeschool our brood of seven.
Some fifteen years ago the DHM had a discussion about this with a dear, elderly relative, a retired schoolteacher. She taught school in the Chicago area during the ’20s and 30′s- during a great wave of immigration from Eastern Europe. She had many interesting stories to tell, and she dearly loved her students and was passionate about education.
So she naturally expressed some concern about this strange thing called homeschooling to the DHM.
“Are you sure you’re qualified, my dear?” She asked the DHM.
The DHM said she was.
“But it’s very important that they learn to read, ” said the Elderly Relation, “And phonics is the best way to do that. Have you had the proper training in teaching phonics?”
The DHM had read a book or two, so she said that yes, she knew how teach phonics, and she certainly agreed that phonics was the way to go. The DHM also asked if the Elderly RElation was sure that phonics was still taught in school, because it hadn’t been taught when the DHM was in school, nor was it taught in most public schools that she knew of.
The Elderly Relation was shocked, and somewhat disbelieving. She was sure that public schools still taught phonics, because otherwise, how were the children learning to read?
Apparently, they weren’t:
California embraced whole language, with a statewide adoption of whole-language textbooks in 1987. Five years later, the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed California had the fifth-lowest reading scores in the country. By 1995, the state’s scores had dropped to the lowest in the nation, and whole language was blamed.
Consider this news story, that reads like something from Saturday Night Live:
A new study reveals that the four counties of the Rio Grande Valley are all above the national average for illiteracy.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 19% of American adults cannot read a newspaper.
But the numbers are higher here in the Valley where 40 percent of Willacy County residents are considered illiterate.
Ad it gets worse from there. Illiteracy stands at about 43 percent for Cameron County residents.
The study show 50 percent in Hidalgo County and 60 percent in Starr County.
Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District is releasing a summer reading list to help its students:
In other news, 60 % of the students are blind, so the school is issuing sunglasses to help them, and 40% are deaf, so the school is giving them iPods.
Is it any wonder we are in so much trouble?
Updated to add this story, which actually happened to our son-in-law Shasta this week. The timing is perfect.
Shasta went to the blood center to sell some plasma. He was a first-time donor, so he had to fill out all kinds of paperwork, check forms, prove his identity, etc, etc. You can’t sell plasma if you’re not an American citizen, and they have to document things like tattoos and piercings- it’s a long, tedious process.
It’s made more tedious when the person running that side of the clinic is like the person Shasta dealt with. Let me clarify up front that this person is an American citizen born and bred here in the USA, white as white bread and pasta- the point being, there are no allowances to be made here.
One of the questions was the seemingly simple “What language do you speak?”
“English,” said Shasta.
The woman at the computer looked confused and stared blankly at him, “What? Don’t you mean American?”
“No.” Said Shasta. “I speak English.”
“No,” she said, “you must mean American. You weren’t born in England, were you?”
“No,” Said Shasta, who is stubborn and implacable in the face of ignorance. “I am an American, and Americans speak English.”
“No, they don’t,” she said. “We speak American. People born in England speak English.”
They went round and round for a while, and finally he relented and let her put ‘American’ down as language on her computer, although he refused to do the same thing on his own forms. She claimed that the computer would not accept English for the native language of a person born in America, but would automatically recategorize the ‘English speaker’ as foreign born. Shasta ignored her and the computer he used for his processing, of course, did not do that. He was so annoyed that he made her leave her desk and come look at his computer to see that ‘English’ is indeed what Americans speak.
Yes, yes, I know that the British born are snickering and agreeing that Americans certainly do not speak English, but even Churchill acknowledged that it’s a common language (two peoples divided by a common language). Humour aside, there is no official language called ‘American.’ Somebody who works at a blood bank and presumably has at least a high school diploma and probably a two year college degree ought to know that. An eighth grade drop out really should not have been baffled by Shasta’s claim that he speaks English.
It’s just one of about a thousand daily symptoms of something much bigger.