Sunday, July 3, 2016

Phonics instruction: What the research says


Submitted to the Jewish Press, July 3, 2016

In "Reading Strategies for Emergent Readers," (July 3), Rifka Schonfeld writes that the National Reading Panel concluded that "phonics instruction is essential to beginning reading instruction."  Actually, the report came down in favor of only one kind of phonics instruction: Intensive systematic instruction, an extreme version of phonics in which which all the major rules are taught in a strict order.

Professor Elaine Garan of Fresno State University re-examined their panel's own data and concluded that the impact of intensive phonics instruction is strong only on tests in which children read lists of words in isolation; it is minuscule on tests in which children have to understand what they read. In my own work, I have found other studies showing the same thing. 

Study after study has shown that performance on tests of reading comprehension is heavily influenced by the amount of self-selected free voluntary reading that children do, not whether they have had intensive systematic phonics. 

This conclusion is consistent with the views of Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman who have, for decades, presented strong evidence that our ability to decode complex words is the result of reading, not the cause.

Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/reading-strategies-for-emergent-readers/2016/07/03/

Some Sources:
Definition of explicit, systematic and structured phonics:
Ehri, C.L., Nunes, S.R., Stahl, S.A., & Willows, D.M. (2001). Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71, (3) 393-447.
Limited impact of phonics:
Garan, E. (2001). Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, no. 7 (March), 500-506.
Garan, E. (2002) Resisting Reading Mandates. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
Self-selected reading and reading comprehension:
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited.
Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2013. Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education, University of London   www.cls.ioe.ac.uk
The result of reading:
Smith, F. 2004. Understanding Reading. L. Erlbaum Associates. (Sixth edition).
Flurkey, A., and  Xu, J.. Eds. 2003. On the Revolution in Reading: The Selected Writings of Kenneth S. Goodman. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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