The Size, Cause and Solution to the Reading Disabilities Epidemic
When a significant segment of our society experiences a disability it is an epidemic. When the leading cause of emotional problems and low self esteem among both children and adults in our society is caused by that same disability it is a public health issue. Poor reading skills among the adult population is a direct and accurate indicator of the increased likelihood that individuals will live in poverty, suffer drug addiction, be incarcerated, and have children who will repeat that same cycle. The tragedy regarding this issue is that so much of it is now preventable. Science has proven what reading methodologies work best. And yet in the face of this indisputable, empirical and thoroughly documented evidence of what works best in beginning reading instruction, a majority of the teaching colleges, universities and public school systems in the United States and in a majority of other English-speaking countries as well continue to ignore the science-based research.
“Teaching children how to read is “job one” for elementary teachers because reading proficiency underpins all later learning. Unfortunately, some 30 percent of all children do not become capable readers. Using the knowledge gained from decades of research, effective reading instruction could cut this unacceptable rate of failure by two-thirds or even more.” (National Council on Teacher Quality 2016 Report: A Closer Look at Early Reading Undergraduate Elementary Programs)
Excerpts below from David Kipen’s New York Times review of the book Language at the Speed of Sight (2017) by cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
“In Language at the Speed of Sight, internationally renowned cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg reveals the under-explored science of reading, which spans cognitive science, neurobiology, and linguistics. Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how. As Seidenberg shows, the disconnect between science and education is a major factor in America’s chronic underachievement. Children aren’t taught basic print skills because educators cling to the disproved theory that good readers guess the words in texts, a strategy that encourages skimming instead of close reading. Interventions for children with reading disabilities are delayed because parents are mistakenly told their kids will catch up if they work harder.
Take away all of Mr. Seidenberg’s helpful tables, charts and other scientific furniture, and his conclusion boils down to this:
Human beings learn written language most efficiently in the same way that humanity first learned it, by following the pathway from phonetic speech toward reading. Which is to say phonics.”
“I am very pleased with my subscription to We All Can Read. I find all of the lessons and resources extremely helpful in working with the many students I support. Thank you for making this great resource available online.”
Elementary English Language Arts Department
Forest Manor Professional Development Center
Indianapolis Public Schools
Our Online Reading and Spelling Curriculum is Research-Based
We All Can Read is solidly grounded in Orton-Gillingham principles and incorporates the components of reading identified in the seminal report authorized by the United States Congress Teaching Children to Read (PDF file) that identifies the core skill strands of phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency as essential components in any successful reading skills acquisition program.
The We All Can Read Program aligns with the findings in Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles published by the U.S. Department of Education’s LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System). Our program focuses upon teaching the print skills / alphabetics identified in that report which consist of the following sub-skills: phonemics, word analysis (phonics), spelling, and rate and fluency.
The We All Can Read Program also corresponds with the findings released in a report by National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy The Relationship of the Component Skills of Learning to International Adult Literacy Survey Performance. (PDF file) This report concludes that the best approach for teaching reading to adults with low and intermediate reading skills is to provide them with direct instruction in the areas of phonics and rate / fluency.
Georgia Department of Education
The Georgia Department of Education placed the We All Can Read: Third Grade through Adult Edition and the We All Can Read: Kindergarten through Second Grade Edition on its Reading First Instructional Materials List. Only programs determined to be research-based were placed on the list. In addition the We All Can Read: Third Grade through Adult Edition was one of only three to qualify as a Category One Program for Grades 4-12 for Older Beginning Readers. Only programs judged to be explicit, systematic phonics programs earned that designation.
National Right to Read Foundation
We are pleased to notify you that the We All Can Read Program has been endorsed by the National Right to Read Foundation, as an exemplary instructional program for teaching children and adults to read.
The success of We All Can Read in teaching the skill of reading is a precious gift to all those who have been locked out of society’s mainstream because of illiteracy. You have made a significant impact nationally on how children and adults are taught to read, and the response of the American people clearly indicates you are succeeding.
In our review of your program, we have used the following criteria: is the instructional approach direct and systematic; are the reading skills taught in the order of difficulty students have in learning them; is the phonetic system taught in a specific sequence; is adequate practice provided at each step to ensure that principles being taught are thoroughly learned; are letter sounds taught in isolation; is the blending of the sounds of the letters taught; is the phonetic system taught in its entirety; and finally, does the individual learn to read using your system of phonetic teaching instruction? Based on our assessment, you meet and exceed these requirements. While no one need tell you, your program is academically sound – the results speak for themselves.
According to the U.S. Department of Education (Wills, 1986), “about twenty-five percent of high school students drop out before graduation and of those who do graduate over thirty percent are illiterate. Thus, we are apparently teaching only somewhat over one half of today’s students to read.” The continued problem of illiteracy is an enormous one, but you have made a very significant contribution to solving one of America’s greatest unmet needs. Congratulations on your achievement. We wish you continued success, as you pursue the goal of eliminating illiteracy in America.
Robert W. Sweet
National Right to Read Foundation
“Iowa Test of Basic Skills/Reading Comprehension
Improves in DeKalb County, GA “
In the fall of 1996, Dr. James Hallford, Superintendent of DeKalb County, contacted the Georgia Department of Education to request assistance in focusing on improving reading achievement in DeKalb County. Dr. Hallford selected Meadowview Elementary to receive special reading training from the DOE staff.
Meadowview Elementary was used as a training ground for techniques that would be used in Reading First schools. Meadowview Elementary received approximately 80% of the inservice training and 20% of the technical support the eight Reading First schools will receive during the 1997-98 school year.
In order to focus on reading improvement at Meadowview Elementary, Principal, Zandra Sherwood and Instructional Lead Teacher, Deborah White, coordinated school efforts by combining teacher training and parent involvement. Meadowview teachers volunteered for after-hour training in order to develop expertise in student assessment. Each student at Meadowview was individually assessed on basic reading skills during the fall and spring.
After individually assessing students, teachers at Meadowview received additional training on teaching direct, explicit, systematic phonics. Phonics materials were purchased in order to provide a balanced reading program. (The We All Can Read Third Grade through Adult Program was purchased for use by the participating 6th grade class.)
As a result of the dedicated staff at Meadowview, combined with training from the DOE and new explicit phonics materials, students at Meadowview made significant improvement in reading achievement on the spring 1997 ITBS.
DeKalb County Superintendent, Dr. James Hallford reported that ITBS scores among the sixth grade class had increased from the 19th percentile as 5th graders to the 35th percentile as sixth graders. (The sixth grade class at Meadowview used the We All Can Read Intensive Phonics Program for approximately one classroom period per day over a four month period of time prior to taking the ITBS in March of 1997.)
The above update was released by the Georgia Department of Education in May of 1997
Intervention Reading Program
Combined 7th and 8th Grade Performance
Lee County Middle School/Leesburg, GA
Out of a total of 171 students who were pretested and posttested, 151 students improve in reading comprehension. The average net gain among these 171 students is 1.6 years. The We All Can Read Program was used as the systematic phonics component within the Intervention Reading Program at Lee County Middle School.
Clinch County Elementary School/Clinch County, Georgia
A Title I class of 5th graders at Clinch County Elementary School in Homerville, Georgia, had a class gain of 16.18 points on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills/Reading Comprehension after one year of training with the We All Can Read Phonics Program. The class average went from 15.9 percent to 32.08 percent; their scores doubled.
A seventh grade teacher at the same school reported that her students experienced an average nine point gain on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills after one year of training with the We All Can Read Phonics Program.