I just read a research summary by Louisa Moats from 1999, Reading is Rocket Science. It was an eye opener. But, it shouldn’t really have been. I have looked into the research of explicit instruction, and as a profession we have ignored that research for years. So it shouldn’t really have been a surprise that we would choose to ignore the research on how children learn to read, especially when the research calls for explicit instruction as well. We just ignored the same thing twice.
Ignore it no longer! If we would use research backed teaching methods, it is estimated that 95% of students could learn to read. We knew this in 1999.
USA: Land of Below Proficient Readers
- 65% of 4th grade students are below proficient in reading.
- 66% of 8th grade students are below proficient in reading.
- 63% of 12th grade students are below proficient in reading.
We have chosen to ignore the evidence. We have chosen to harm our students. We have chosen to harm your children. Hopefully as these sad statistics become more well known, more teachers will choose to care about students, to care about your children, and to teach them how to read.
The Research Is The Remedy
Research has found that we must utilize teacher led instruction for decoding, comprehension, and literature appreciation. A reason we ought to use teacher led instruction is because students benefit the most when lessons are systematic and children are taught the code of written English explicitly.
“For best results, the teacher must instruct most students directly, systematically, and explicitly to decipher words in print, all the while keeping in mind the ultimate purpose of reading, which is to learn, enjoy, and understand.” (Moates, 1999)
We must be systematic and explicit when teaching reading or writing because it is not intuitive. We do not naturally or easily learn to read and write. The rules are complex and we add obstacles to learning by making students infer the rules.
We know that some methods of reading instruction are more effective than others because, “Emergent reading follows a predictable course regardless of the speed of reading acquisition” (Moates, 1999). Essentially, because emergent reading follows a predictable pattern, we can infer (and the research supports) a predictable pattern of effective instruction.
Teacher led instruction isn’t the most popular right now. But we shouldn’t let ideology or pop-education culture get in the way of effective instruction. Unless, of course, your freedom of choosing your preferred teaching method is more important than children learning to read. Make your choice.
Teaching Reading is Rocket Science is available for free. I strongly recommend you read it.