Here is a reading research fact every parent and teacher must burn into their memory bank:
All reading programs work
but not for all students.
More importantly, all reading programs produce failing students. One of these failing students might be your child – especially if your child is special needs and needs more than a conventional reading approach.
For example, did you know that some students are “phonetically deaf”? While there is nothing wrong with their hearing, they just don’t get phonics or “a skills-first approach.” Phonics is simply too complicated. They need a different reading approach.
In my book, The Failure Free Reading Methodology: New Hope for Non-Readers, I explain in great detail what the research has to say about phonetically deaf students. They are not new, these students actually constitute the largest number of students who are currently failing in school.
Sadly, they sit in class not understanding how to rhyme or break words into their individuals sounds or how to put these individual sounds back into meaningful units. They come home in tears or fail to look forward to going to school or their reading class. They start to give up and become a behavior problem or lose confidence in their reading ability. They start to see themselves as losers.
The worst part is that, they are never given the opportunity to demonstrate what they are really capable of doing, namely, to read for meaning – with fluency, expression and comprehension – from a passage or an actual book. Why? Because, their school is under the mistaken belief that they can’t.
How can they possibly read for meaning with fluency and comprehension, if they can’t do the “basics” you are told. The students are sent back to be drilled more and more on their weakness – their lack of knowledge of letters sounds. They get older and older and soon they become teenagers sitting in front of computer screens with dancing bears and bunny rabbits.
- But is knowledge of letters and sounds really the fundamental cornerstone of reading?
- Is this knowledge absolutely essential to moving forward?
- More importantly, can students who can’t get phonics, learn to read with meaning and expression?
The answers are: no, no and yes! No. Knowledge of letter sounds is only one of a variety of different ways to learn how to read. No. While important for some reading skills, phonics is not the cornerstone for future reading success. Yes, Yes Yes, Students who can’t get phonics, can learn to read with meaning and expression regardless of their special needs.
If you have a phonetically deaf child, let me give you two good pieces of news. First. You are not alone. Researchers are now finding that up to 30% of students in regular education and up to 50% of special needs students don’t get phonics. For example, the Federal Government recently spent billions of dollars, promoting “a phonics-first” reading approach known as Reading First. All students were taught phonics first, using the best scientifically validated reading research methods. So I ask: how did they do in this “phonics is the only way to fly approach?”
The answer: not very well. Consider the following excerpt taken from Edweek.
“A major federal evaluation of Reading First issued in 2008, for example, found that the program helped more pupils ‘crack the code’ to identify letters and words, but did not have an impact on reading comprehension …“ (Dec. 3, 2008).
Here’s the second piece of information. This research is clear, learning phonics doesn’t seem to transfer to reading comprehension!
Am I anti-phonics? No! But we need to put it in perspective. Phonics is not and never has been a necessary condition to either learning to read aloud or more importantly, learning to read for meaning.
If your child is failing in a phonics first approach, you need to change the approach. There are viable non-phonic, non-flashcard alternatives readily available. It is never too late to help your child reach his/her full potential. There is hope.