Stop Illiteracy: Require Research Based Phonics In K-2

Stop Illiteracy: Require Research Based Phonics In K-2

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Twisted Diction started this petition to Betsy DeVos and

Hi, my name is Noah, I'm not an expert on reading science, but I listen to the scientists who are. What I can offer is my perspective, having over two decades of experience being a terrible reader despite having had all the traditional supports - and no, I'm not dyslexic.

Nowadays I run a tabletop word game company, which is how I discovered this issue. My work has also given me the pleasure of speaking with dozens of other readers like me. To see the connection between us, we need to read between the lines.

"I’ve never liked reading cause I was never any good at it. In honor of National Literacy Month I’d like share my story and what I’ve learned about the literacy crisis in the US.  

When I say literacy crisis I don’t just mean 1 in 4 of us haven’t read a book in the past year. I’m talking about a nation divided by information boiled down to nothing more than a headline because not many read past that anyways. Also, same as it’s been, over 60% of kids from 4th-12th grade are not reading proficiently and they’re on track to struggle with reading for rest of their life, like me. But there’s hope for our kids today and it all starts with how we learn to read.

First let’s separate the person, the act of reading and the information that reading provides access to. According to Scarborough there are two major sets, or “ropes,” of reading skills, but I like to look at them as a car and a road:

1. The car is Language comprehension. At around 5 years old, when we first learn to read, most of us have already been talking for about 4 years, which we learned naturally by mimicking those around us. 

2. The road is Word Recognition, which can’t be learned through mimicry so it needs to be taught to have the best road to drive on - and this is where our problem is.

Science has shown that the road is actually a code and, to become a skilled reader, beginners need to understand how letters represent speech sounds so they can decode - aka phonics. When phonics is covered properly virtually every student reads on grade level. When it’s not, over 60% of us, regardless of gender, race and class fall behind in reading. 

In the past, phonics had been taught to some degree, but everything changed in the early 80s when a different form of reading instruction took over(Whole Language). Only phonics could bring balance to America’s readers, but when the world needed it most, it vanished. Decades have passed since then, but with new talk of phonics... well you get where I’m going with this. 

Personally I’ve always loved stories because my parents read to me as a kid. I was lucky because I had books to choose from, but none of that mattered. Because the truth is, no matter how curious the reader is, even with a Maserati for language comprehension, if the road to the information is in shambles it will not only affect their love of reading, but their confidence, school performance and the rest of their life.

So with phonics being left out for so long is it really any surprise when so many of us fall behind and end up preferring other roads to access information? When headlines become the only lines we won’t cross? Teachers are not to blame because their training is not covering this. I think most of us blame ourselves anyways. But thanks to thousands of studies from the last half century, now we know phonics is just as necessary as every other reading skill and it’s not too late for our kids today. It’s on all of us now, so please sign our petition for schools to require comprehensive reading curriculums in K-2 so hopefully future generations choose to read between the headlines."

I use to work full time at A Wider Circle, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end poverty, and through this truly humbling experience I gained a valuable perspective on how different struggles intertwine. This is my take on it.

When it comes to the literacy crisis in the US, poverty is not the source of the problem, but it does make it worse. It pretty much always makes any problem worse. 

I believe that no matter what setbacks you’re faced with, there are always ways to overcome or work around them - I saw that in the faces of people we served every day. But we also have to remember that what ends up having the biggest impact on our life is opportunity. Isn't that The American Dream? With that in mind, for someone living in poverty, who has setbacks piled high and scarce opportunity as is, something like poor reading ability will make an already difficult situation significantly harder to overcome. Additionally, most people in poverty in the United States are born into it. Now more than ever, it is imperative that, regardless of what hand we're dealt in life, all of us should have the opportunity to play our cards right.

We've partnered with Reading Is Fundamental, the nations leading children's literacy nonprofit, to maximize our impact. For every sale of our phonics game, Sound Out: A Game For All Talks Of Life, $1 will go to RIF. Also, starting in 2020 we will host an annual back-to-school matching gifts drive where, for every sale of Sound Out, we will donate 1 edition to RIF. Game-Based Learning is on the rise and we have more ideas for fighting the literacy crisis. Opt to share your email with us to say in the loop!

Bonus literacy facts from Reading Is Fundamental:

- 93 million adults in the U.S. read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society.

- More than 8,000 students drop out of high school every day.

Bonus literacy facts from ProLiteracy:

- The US spends $232 billion annually on healthcare costs linked to low adult literacy.

- 75% of inmates either dropped out of high school or are classified as low literate.

Video sources:

"When phonics is covered properly virtually every student reads on grade level."

"Reading is the most studied aspect of human learning."

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read

"Teachers are not to blame because their training is not covering this."

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/12/582465905/the-gap-between-the-science-on-kids-and-reading-and-how-it-is-taught

"In the early 80s a different form of reading instruction took over."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_education_in_the_United_States#History

"Over 60% of students from 4th - 12th grade are not reading proficiently."

https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/

"People are more likely to share an article than read it."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2016/08/08/59-percent-of-you-will-share-this-article-without-even-reading-it/

"1 in 4 Americans have not read a book in the past year."

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

 

 

 

 

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