Monday, June 27, 2016

Should summer reading programs emphasize intensive phonics?

Sent to the Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, June 27, 2016

From the description in "West Hancock focuses on literacy during summer school," (June 26), the West Hancock summer reading program for first and second graders appears to be an intensive phonics program.  For example, the article describes students learning the "silent e" rule: an e at the end of the word makes the vowel coming before it say its name,  as in "kite." Not mentioned is that there are numerous exceptions: horse, love, puddle, come, are, were., etc and the rules for these words are very complicated.
Early readers should only be taught the straight-forward rules. The complex ones, like "silent e" are acquired through reading.

The famous "Becoming a Nation of Readers" report, published by the National Institute of Education, agrees:
“…phonics instruction should aim to teach only the most important and regular of letter-to-sound relationships … once the basic relationships have been taught, the best way to get children to refine and extend their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is through repeated opportunities to read. If this position is correct, then much phonics instruction is overly subtle and probably unproductive."

In contrast, there is a lot of research showing that summer reading programs should focus on developing a love of reading and making actual reading experience possible.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Author, with Fay Shin: Summer Reading; Program and Evidence. Allyn and Bacon.
original article:

1 comment:

  1. There's no one so blind as though who will not see...Dr Krashen, my son learned to read in Spanish (his mother tongue)at the age of four. Since then and following the comprehension hypothesis he has been learning English. One day he took a book in English and he started reading out loud perfectly well. Nobody has ever taught him phonics in English and he can even pronounce (read) words which he has never come across. Whole language is the key to language education...