- How students learn to read — the science of putting sounds and thoughts to letters — isn’t taught in most teacher education programs, according to The Hechinger Report. That means that even students who end up in honors classes, such as those in the Bethlehem Area School District, may turn out not to be particularly strong readers.
- Science has shown, that unlike speaking, learning to read is not a natural human process. Yet, in Bethlehem’s public schools, the trend had been to push back against phonics, a tool that helps students learn how to decode words by teaching them letters and their corresponding sounds.
- The district began to re-train its teachers on the science of reading and integrating the use of phonics and other reading tools back into the elementary school curriculum. Even if teachers believe that students just need to be engaged to read, scientists know that reading is a skill that needs to be taught through basic building blocks, which should include phonics.
While state standards are key — and educators are required to follow them — so too are the basic building blocks of learning that can impact students long after they leave the classroom. Many curriculum tools have fallen by the wayside, however, as administrators grapple with making sure other learning standards are met during the school day. Phonics is one such casualty, despite scientific evidence that it is part of basic reading instruction.
In a 2013 paper, author Jenna M. Bast looked at the use of integrating phonics in kindergarten and 1st grade and found “…the integration of phonics into elementary school reading programs has shown to be a successful approach to teaching students to become independent readers,” she wrote.
Independent reading, is the core to any mastery of a subject. It’s the difference between a student who just learns the basics to complete his or her education, and a child who grows up to become a scholar. Certainly not every job requires scholarship. But having an impact in one’s community — such as making an educated vote — requires an understanding of what’s happening in the world and being up to date on current events, often through independent reading.
Educators do much to foster a love of reading — from crafting classroom libraries to holding book talks. But those efforts are often made with older children. Curriculum designers can make sure classrooms for the youngest students provide basic tools that allow children not only learn to read, but to also develop a passion for reading.