Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pleasure reading and libraries? YES. A little phonics? YES. Intensive phonics? NO.

Published,  Cleveland Plain Deader, Dec. 29, 2017 at
Under (their) title: "Reading education is more than just getting hooked on phonics: Letter to the Editor"
Carole Ullemeyer’s enthusiasm (letters,Dec. 21) for reading and libraries is strongly supported by research. Studies done over the last half-century confirm that children who do more self-selected reading read better, write better, have larger vocabularies, spell better, and have better control of complicated grammatical structures. Research also consistently shows a positive relationship between access to quality libraries and reading ability. 
But is phonics “the good teaching method”?  Knowledge of basic phonics, the straightforward rules for pronouncing initial consonants and other less complex rules, can help make reading at beginning stages more comprehensible, but the current call for phonics is a call for heavy, intensive phonics training, including complicated rules with many exceptions, taught in a rigid sequence to all students. 
Published scientific studies show that students who have experienced intensive phonics do better only on tests in which they have to pronounce lists of words presented in isolation. Intensive phonics instruction has only a microscopic influence on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

Strong performance on tests of reading comprehension is related to how much self-selected reading children have done, and is not the result of doing intensive phonics. 


Phonics & tests of reading comprehension: Garan, E. 2001. Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, 7: 500–506; Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37(4): 72–74. 

Pleasure reading and reading ability: McQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions. Heinemann.
Krashen, S. (2004). The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Libraries & reading ability: Krashen, S., S. Y. Lee, and J. McQuillan. 2012. Is the library important? Multi-variate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education 8(1): 26–36.
Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. and Lao, C. 2017.  Comprehensible and Compelling: The Causes and Effects of Free Voluntary Reading.  Libraries Unlimited.

Original letter, at

Kids can't read, but get pushed from one grade to another, year after year. This is disgusting in this day. I am 76 and I learned to read in kindergarten. I think all pre-school or kindergarten teachers in Cleveland should be fired. How can they be called teachers if they can't teach anything? How can they go on in life? How can they do their homework? Maybe you should quit teaching them to use the computer and go back to basics.
Don't tell me they don't have enough teachers, that is a poor excuse. We learned phonics, the good teaching method, and we learned to love to read. Once we learned the basics, our parents on Saturday would take us to the local library and get us a library card. Sometimes we had story hour, where the teacher would read us a story or we would do a book report on a book we read.
I must have read about 1,000 books in my lifetime. I still read a lot and I go to the local library's book sale. There is a wonderful world out there in books. Please tell your teachers to please teach your children to read at a young age. It will benefit them later in life.
Carole R. Ullemeyer.


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