The debate about the best way to help children learn to read goes back more than 100 years, but an overwhelming body of data has shown the benefit of having kids sound out letters and words.
One of the largest analyses of such studies is a 2000 report by the National Reading Panel, which found that phonemic-awareness instruction helps kids learn to read and boosts comprehension, while teaching systematic phonics “makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction.”
President George W. Bush used the report as the foundation for his own reading initiative, which stressed phonics for early readers.
Even that report left the door open for proponents of balanced literacy, noting that phonics “should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program.”
Plenty of educators listened to this part loudly — despite the fact that those advocating for more phonics were never saying phonics only. “When I started on this journey, I was like, Phonics? That’s what George Bush wanted. Phonics? That’s what happens in red states,” says Danielle, a teacher in New York who, like many of the two dozen people interviewed for this article, requested we use her first name out of concern for professional consequences.
Less than a year after an attempt on his life, author Salman Rushdie made a rare public appearance at an awards ceremony Thursday to warn of the dangers of banning books and of related movements in the US to roll back freedoms of expression.
“The attack on books, the attack on teaching, the attack on libraries, in – how can I put this – Florida, has never been more dangerous, never been more important to fight,” he said.
Rushdie spoke at the PEN America Gala in New York City, praising the literary and free speech advocacy group for its latest efforts to block politicians and local officials seeking to ban literature concerning race and gender identity.
PEN America, along with book publisher Penguin Random House and several parents and authors, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging Florida’s Escambia County school district’s removal of certain books on race and LGBTQ issues from school libraries.
Paige worked in corporate America for several years before deciding at the beginning of 2020 to switch to a career she found more meaningful.
When the pandemic hit a short time later, she second-guessed her decision, but the crisis also made her feel “more compelled to rise to the occasion.”
She completed virtual training. Paige — who spoke on the condition that only her middle name be used — started her first job as a teacher at an under-resourced Dallas-area middle school in January 2021.
The district was using a hybrid classroom model, blending remote and in-person instruction. Paige had the advantage of a previous career that prepared her for the technological headache. She felt she was able to build constructive relationships with her students, especially the roughly 30% who came to school in person.
Though her subject, reading, is a perennial testing priority, she was liberated from test pressure since states were given the option to waive the usual battery of exams that year. In hindsight, her first few months of teaching were “breezy and manageable” in comparison to what came after.