Why Your Child Can’t Read

On Sunday, The New York Post posted an article about Columbia University closing down its Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

The article reports:

Just before the Labor Day weekend, Columbia announced that it’s “dissolving” the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and sending its creator, Lucy Calkins, off on indefinite sabbatical.

For decades, Calkins and her colleagues pushed “literacy” programs based on ideology, not science, programs that failed the children who most needed help.

Her “balanced literacy” approach gave short shrift to phonics — by teaching children to look at pictures and guess words, for example, instead of sounding them out — and failed to foster the building of knowledge and vocabulary vital to learning the love of reading.

Phonics may be old-fashioned, but it is the only way a child can read an unfamiliar word. When my children were little, we watched Sesame Street together. I loved the sections they did on phonics.

Phonics matters. I have three children. Two of them learned to read in Massachusetts, and one learned to read in Rhode Island. Massachusetts taught phonics (they used blow-up ‘letter people’ which were wonderful–Mr. O was obstreperous), and Rhode Island taught ‘see and say’ or sight words. It wasn’t until college that the child who had not been taught phonics caught up with the other two on learning to read well and to love reading.

The article notes:

Columbia’s decision comes months after Chancellor David Banks pulled the plug on the Calkins-friendly approach once used by nearly half of NYC public schools.

Indeed, the drive toward “evidence-based” instruction has seen districts across the nation reject the Teachers College approach.

So Columbia’s move is essentially just recognizing reality.

Definitely a step in the right direction.