Introducing the Literacy Pod

Phonics Counter-Revolution On!

When California instituted the "whole-language" approach to reading over a decade ago, it abandoned a tested and proven method—phonics—in favor of one that had children guessing at words and inventing their own spelling and grammar. Whole language quickly spread to virtually every public school. Attempts to restore phonics were rebuffed by the teacher unions and educational "experts" in California who claimed the new way was better.

The results of the new approach have been in for a couple of years now. Standardized tests in California placed that state's public school children in a tie for last with Louisiana as the worst readers among 39 states tested.

So then, California public schools began to beat a hasty retreat from the whole-language approach—word recognition taught by associating words and pictures—and re-embraced phonics, which teaches children to string consonant and vowel sounds together.

Because California set the national whole-language trend and has now abandoned it, other states and cities have been following suit. The Houston (TX) Independant School District (HISD), seventh largest in the nation, quickly issued a reports by scholars and citizens that demanded a return to systematic phonics.

Barbara Foorman, head of the HISD Reading Committee, said, "What was found was that the more explicit the instruction in phonics, the greater the growth and outcomes in reading. Specifically, even though children started the school year at the same low levels of phonological and word reading skills, by the end of the year the children receiving direct instruction with phonics with were at the 42nd percentile on a standardized test of reading, whereas children receiving an embedded phonics approach were at the 23rd percentile."

Jack Pikulski, president-elect of the International Reading Association and a professor of education at the University of Deleware, believes "phonics is a necessary part of a balanced reading program. There is plenty of evidence that phonics can get children off to a good start."

Excerpts from Los Angeles Times article August 1997 written by Cal Thomas