Last week, a mom friend shared that their school had recommended reading intervention for her second grader.
I was shocked becasue I knew that her son was a strong reader or at least on his way to becoming one. After all, he was already reading chapter books!
As an educator, I asked myself, "How do we determine who gets reading interventions?"
As a mom, I asked myself, "What reading intervention is being used?"
Because here's the thing. If the school is not using a literacy curriculum that is systematic, sequential, and explicit (structured literacy), many kids are failed. As the science of reading (not a buzzword; not a pendulum swing) became more widely known, literacy curriculums stamped it on their program even if it was really rebranded balanced literacy (the opposite of structured literacy).
A few weeks ago, I shared a real Reading Recovery letter in my private Facebook group. Shockingly to me, it became one of my most viewed posts. Reading Recovery is an outdated balanced literacy "intervention" created by Marie Clay of New Zealand that came to North America in 1984. Its teaching theories have been disproven by scientific research. (Listen to episode 2: The Idea of Sold a Story podcast to learn the fascinating history.)
The letter informs parents that their child will be using "strategies" such as using picture clues (aka guessing based on pictures), looking at the beginning and ending sound (instead of attending to all of the letters and their sounds), and making a "good guess." These "strategies" are known as three-cueing and not only have they been disproven but they're hard habits to break and teach kids that reading is a guessing game. As strong readers ourselves, we know that reading is NOT a guessing game.
My intention was to share what not to do and then what to do instead. I was shocked when the first comment was about how a mom thought this is how her daughter with ADHD likes to learn words. Not only that, but we should let children learn the way it works for them. That is, that all children learn differently.
But the truth is, even though brains are different, all brains (neurodivergent and neurotypical) learn to read in the same way. The same parts of the brain need to be activated to become a skilled reader. Although some may learn easier than others, all brains go through the same process when learning how to read. Brain scans show us that the same parts of the brain must be activated for skilled reading. Different brains may have under-activation in areas but through explicit, systematic instruction (structured literacy) they rewire themselves.
Studies show that only 5% of students learn to read effortlessly. Meanwhile, 20 - 30% learn to read easily with most methods effective, but 30 - 50% of students find reading difficult and need systematic, explicit instuction. That is, structured literacy. If we know ALL students can learn how to read with structured literacy, why are we still using balanced literacy, which only favors some?
Want to learn more about how to help your child read? One of the biggest struggles I see parents of young readers face is worrying if their child will ever learn to read. That’s why I created a free guide full of mistakes parents make with struggling readers and how to fix them. It’s called, The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make with Their Struggling Reader: https://thereadersdropinn.ck.page/43630d5646. (Again, it’s totally free!)
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week.