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Author and education researcher Charles J. Sykes describes whole-language reading instruction in one first-grade classroom in his book "Dumbing Down Our Kids":
“Reading instruction begins with “pre-reading strategies” in which “children predict what story is about by looking at title and pictures. Background knowledge is activated to get children thinking about reading topic.” Then they read story. If a child does not recognize a word, they are told to “look for clues.”
“The whole-language curriculum gave specific suggestions that children: “Look at pictures,” ask “What would make sense?” “Look for patterns,” “Look for clues,” and “Skip word and read ahead and then go back to word.” Finally, if all this fails, parents/teachers are told, “Tell child word. . . .”
“When kids couldn’t figure out a word, educationists gave these further ions: “Ask a friend, skip word, substitute another meaningful word.” Sykes then asks, "Look at pictures. Skip word. Ask a friend. Is this reading?"
During 1990s, when whole-language instruction was in full force, outraged parents bitterly complained about their children's deteriorating ability to read. In response, public schools across country then reverted to their usual tactics --- they kept failed policy but changed its name.
Many public schools today say they now teach kids to read with "balanced reading instruction." What this means is they combine whole-language instruction with a smattering of phonics. "See," they can say to parents, "we are now teaching your kids phonics." The only problem is that too often "balance" is still about 80 percent whole-language, and 20 percent phonics, if and when teacher thinks phonics is "needed" in "special cases."
If you were a doctor and were treating a patient for a serious infection, would you give patient a "balanced" cure of arsenic and antibiotics? That is moral and practical status of "balanced" reading instruction where whole-language instruction still predominates, because whole-language is arsenic of reading-instruction methods.
Parents, don't let public-school officials fool you with their glib talk of "balanced reading instruction." You need to personally investigate how your local school teaches your kids to read. The best thing to do is to test your children's true reading abilities with an outside, independent testing company. You may be shocked by outcome of test. The Resources section of "Public Schools, Public Menace," lists many such independent reading-testing companies.
Joel Turtel is an education policy analyst. He is also the author of "The Welfare State: No Mercy For The Middle Class." Contact Information: Website: http://www.mykidsdeservebetter.com, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 718-447-7348.