In the education arena, we’ve come to learn something quite alarming.
Quite frankly, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that more than 60% of 4th graders in America are not proficient as readers.
Why is this alarming for this particular age group?
When our students are not learning to read by third grade, they are often struggling readers for the remainder of their lives. When you struggle to read, you struggle in every academic area. When you struggle academically, it’s highly likely that you become so frustrated with academics that you drop out of high school, closing a window of opportunities for yourself. Dropping out of high school often leads to living in poverty, and as much as I hate to write this: Not knowing how to read or how to read effectively is a likely determinant of entering the criminal justice system.
That moved quickly.
So, what can we do?
As a teacher and education business owner, I seek every opportunity to better myself as an educator and leader. When I began working with my struggling readers in early elementary school and beyond, I started seeking every reading program under the sun. It certainly wasn’t sight words that lit my fire. I decided to study the Orton-Gillingham approach after researching many a system. While Orton-Gillingham is tailored for students with dyslexia, I realized that this phonetic system is a game changer for every reader. Reading words aloud has no meaning when you do not understand the sounds that the letters make. What happens when you come across a word that you have never seen before, and you’re not equipped to read it? Through phonics, you have the key to reading every word and sounding it out quite well.
Our schools teach contextual clues, reading fluency, and reading comprehension, but they do not always focus on phonics. Without phonics for every young learner and every struggling reader, many students will inevitably struggle when we always had the opportunity to assist them.
Teachers, I completely understand that feeling when you are discouraged from teaching a curriculum you wish to teach. I have totally been there. However, if you can incorporate phonics as much as possible, I promise you that you’re bridging reading gaps. Here are the Reading Programs that incorporate the Orton-Gillingham approach: Wilson Reading System, Barton Reading Program, and Lindamood-Bell Program.
Parents, read with your children as much as you possibly can! Dive into phonics. Phonics means understanding that there is a relationship between the letters in a word and the sound of the word.