As we head back to school, I thought it would be beneficial to write a series of red flags to look for in curriculums and resources.
We want our kids to be taught to read using evidence based practices, commonly referred to as "the science of reading," which is literally the science that tells us how the brain learns how to read because when using the science, 95% of children can learn how to read.
Today, two of the most popular approaches to teach reading are balanced literacy and structured litearcy. But what are they and why does it matter? That's what we're going to talk about today.
Many of us adults learned to read using balanced literacy even if we don't know it. This approach to reading arose in the 1990's when many of us were learning to read. Many teachers were taught to teach reading this way in their teacher training programs.
Balanced litearcy focused on feelings rather than facts. The main goal was to foster a love of reading in every child. Key players were Fountas and Pinnell (just look on the back of one of your child's book for F&P) and Lucy Calkins. Learning to read was based on the individual child. This might sound nice, but...
Balanced litearcy did not teach a child how to read.
In fact, only an estimated 30% of children will learn to read when being taught using a balanced literacy approach, and it is particularly ineffective for teaching dyslexic learners because it doesn't focus on the decoding skills that struggling readers need.
Before we go any further, I want you to give yourself grace for what you did not know. You didn't know, and that's okay, but now we are learning together, and when we know better, we do better.
So what do we want instead? Structured literacy. Structured literacy is explicit, systematic, and sequential. It is based on evidence and reasearch rather than feelings. Structured literacy benefits all children but is essential for dyslexic learners.
And yes, structured literacy can be fun and engaging, and kids can still love reading when learning how to read with structrued literacy.
So what's the problem? Why doesn't everyone teach using strucutred literacy if we know this is how all children will learn how to read?
If you've listened to the podcast Sold A Story, you'll know that a lot of it has to do with money. Big box curriculums, publishing companies, and people (like Lucy Calkins and Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas) who have made millions of dollars off of balanced literacy and refuse to admit they were wrong.
To make matters worse, "science of reading" is sometimes slapped on a resource or curriculum even if it does not follow the science.
So is it science of reading or balanced literacy in disguise? Sometimes it's up to you to figure out, and I'm going to teach you how. So follow along on the blog and learn the red flags to look for.