Phonics or Balanced Literacy: How Does Your School Teach Reading?

I was an active member of my school’s PTA over 20 years ago. I became aware that my district was using a highly regarded balanced literacy/whole language reading program to teach children how to read. This same program was being used in most schools nationwide.  As parents, we were concerned that our children were not being taught Phonics as we had been. Therefore, we presented the 2000 National Reading Panel Report: Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction to our school.

After that, we were told that whole language and balanced literacy were the most effective ways to teach reading to school age children. We knew they were wrong back then. Those parents whose children struggled to learn to read were left supporting their children independently, painfully aware that not all parents could afford to do so.

The new podcast by Emily Hanford, Sold a Story, clearly, explicitly, and succinctly shares the current state of reading instruction. Thankfully it is exposing what many of us knew so many years ago. As a result, changes are taking place in many schools.

If you don’t want to listen to the podcast, here are the key takeaways:

  • All children are best taught using a Phonics-based approach to be effective readers.
  • Learning from pictures and context does not improve skills or vocabulary in the long term.
  • The use of leveled readers is not based on research.
  • Children can learn to read if taught by a teacher trained to teach reading properly.

Important to consider:

Approximately 25% to 40% of people with ADHD also have dyslexia.  I see the passion, stress, frustration, and anger many parents feel when faced with less than adequate-programs, support, and instruction.  Please realize that your child’s teacher, and even their school, is not necessarily the appropriate source of blame.  You must advocate for change at the district level.

  • Join your Parent Association
  • Go to School Board meetings
  • Run for School Board!

Please check out these two blogs if your child struggles with reading:

ADHD and Dyslexia – They Often Walk Together

Introduction to Dyslexia

If you need more resources, please email me.

You are not alone in this journey.


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