Someone recently questioned me whether lack of phonemic awareness is one of the primary causes of reading failure. It is. After studying over 100,000 programs, the National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that lack of phonemic awareness was a major cause of reading failure. The NICHD identified lack of phonemic awareness as the primary cause of reading failure (Lyon, 1998). Several of the field’s leading researchers have declared that it is absolutely necessary to teach phonemic awareness if we are to correct reading failure (Chessman et al., 2009; de Graaf et al., 2009; Foorman et al., 2015; Foorman, Breier, and Fletcher, 2003; Kuppen et al., 2011; Lyon, 1998; Oakhill and Cain, 2012; Rayner et al., 2001; Torgesen et al., 2001) and numerous neuroimaging studies (Keller & Just, 2009, Meyler, Keller, Cherkassky, Gabrieli, & Just, 2008; Yoncheva, Wise, & McCandliss, 2015) have each shown that teaching phonemic awareness is the way to correct reading failure. How many years will school officials, administrators, and even universities training tomorrow’s teachers continue to cling to outdated, disproven policies like whole language and allow children to fail? We can teach children how to read; we simply will not do it.
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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.