Why do so many children fail to learn to read in school? Experts say it is because of the way we try to teach children to read (Kuppen et al., 2011; Oakhill and Cain, 2012). Our teaching methods are wrong (Foorman et al, 2015). There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 40 different letter sounds (phonemes). These letter sounds are made through 250 different letter combinations or spellings. Quite simply, our letter sounds, pronunciation of words, and spelling of words are confusing. Yes, some children are able to figure out letter sounds, but over half the children across the nation are not (see earlier blog post from 1-2-18 on reading failure). That is why children are failing to learn to read. The brain focuses on letter sounds (Moreau, 2015). Yet, schools rely on memorized word lists (Foorman, 1995) or memorized phonics rules. Word lists and phonics rules do not teach letter sounds (Foorman et al., 2003), and children who cannot memorize word lists cannot memorize phonics rules (Shaywitz, 2003). I have worked with children from the Bronx to the projects in Chicago. Yes, every child can learn to read. Poverty is not a deterrent if we use the correct reading method.
Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D.
Elaine is a program designer with many years of experience helping at-risk children learn to read. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (Counseling) from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.