There have been many different theories and schools of thought over the years when it comes to reading instruction. Since the majority of the population seems to read automatically and learns to read with little direct instruction, I believe this gives the misconception that systematic reading instruction is unnecessary. Thankfully, studies conducted in the last decade have shown not only the benefits but the necessity of explicit phonics instruction for a solid reading foundation.
In April 2000, the National Institutes of Health released the findings taken from the all-inclusive study conducted by the National Reading Panel. The following is taken from that report: “In the largest, most comprehensive evidenced-based review ever conducted of research on how children learn reading, a Congressionally mandated independent panel has concluded that the most effective way to teach children to read is through instruction that includes a combination of methods. “The panel determined that effective reading instruction includes teaching children to break apart and manipulate the sounds in words (phonemic awareness), teaching them that these sounds are represented by letters of the alphabet which can then be blended together to form words (phonics), having them practice what they've learned by reading aloud with guidance and feedback (guided oral reading), and applying reading comprehension strategies to guide and improve reading comprehension.” The study also gave the conclusions found when addressing the special-learning needs of those with learning disabilities or those who were low achievers: “For children with learning disabilities and children who are low achievers, systematic phonics instruction, combined with synthetic phonics instruction produced the greatest gains. Synthetic phonics instruction consists of teaching students to explicitly convert letters into phonemes and then blend the phonemes to form words. Moreover, systematic synthetic phonics instruction was significantly more effective in improving the reading strategies of children from low socioeconomic levels. Across all grade levels, systematic synthetic phonics instruction improved the ability of good readers to spell.” (To find the full report, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/nrp.cfm.)
Through current research, more educators and parents are becoming aware of the need for this type of reading instruction, but most still do not know how to teach it systematically and explicitly. This is where training becomes an important component to the effectiveness of this type of reading instruction. Reading Horizons offers FREE online training because we know how important this is, and we want to make it accessible to everyone. We can no longer assume that simply exposing kids to letters and sounds and having them read for the sake of reading will give them the skills necessary to help them become efficient at decoding and encoding. Taking the time to instruct learners in a multi-sensory fashion and giving them transferable strategies and skills will more than pay off. This type of reading instruction gives a solid reading foundation that ensures reading success.