It is never my intention to cause offense, and yet I seem to do it fairly regularly. Sometimes I feel really bad about it and apologize at least twice as profusely as the occasion required. Other times, I feel bad that feelings were hurt, and yet I know I did the right thing and can only regret the emotional impact and not the act that brought it about. Such was the case today.
Candace Salima and I went down to a small town in Central Utah this afternoon to speak about literacy. While there, we were asked if we felt that the decline in literacy in the country is related to the way it is taught in schools. I firmly believe that it is linked, and shared the things I have experienced and learned on the subject, including the fact that schools today are not teaching reading the way they were twenty, ten, and even five years ago.
The biggest difference of opinion I have with traditional reading methods is that many people are only taught two sounds for each vowel, when there are in actuality four. When you are taught all four vowel sounds, this eliminates the need for sight words, as all words can now be sounded out. Candace shared some experiences of her own with nieces and nephews who began strugging in school as of three years ago, when the schools really began to shift to a different method of teaching.
There were a couple of retired school teachers in the audience this afternoon who had different experiences with their students and so did not agree with what I said. Although Candace and I both stressed that things have changed a lot in the last few years, after these ladies retired, I'm sorry to say that some feathers were ruffled. It's always very unfortunate when that happens.
We all approach life from different perspectives. These fine women had served their community as public school teachers and felt a measure of pride in the job they had done. I don't discount their contributions and their dedication to their jobs, not one bit. I, however, have tutored children who were unable to read using the method taught them in school and were frustrated with the whole process. When I taught them using phonics, and with all four vowel sounds, lights went off in their heads and they were finally able to comprehend what had eluded them for so long.
The fact of the matter is that current methods of teaching a child to read are not as effective as the methods that were used years ago. If they were, why is our illiteracy rate as high as it is?
I'm sorry I caused offense to the wonderful ladies we spoke to today. Again, it's never my intention. But I gotta be me, and it's my honest, sincere and educated opinion that the public schools are not teaching reading the way it needs to be taught. I speak about the need for proper phonics at every opportunity and will continue to do so. Reading is a powerful gift and it needs to be delivered properly in order to do the most good to the recipient.