The limiting factor on reading comprehension for most children in the initial two years of instruction is not language comprehension, it’s their inability to quickly recognize the words on the page. This can only be remedied by explicit and skilled instruction involving the distal factors that directly impact word recognition, that is, letter-sound correspondences, decoding, and the phonemic awareness skill of blending. As children begin to master these distal factors, the orthographic mapping that enables automatic sight word creation gets underway.
For kids from the Anglosphere, a majority will not have any problem with comprehension in the initial 2 years of instruction.
So, the problem has to be not being able to recognize words on a page. Why are kids unable to quickly recognize the words on a page?
Why are many kids in England still unable to read despite being taught systematic synthetic phonics?
How does a child blend letters to sound out a word when sounds represented by letters are taught wrongly? Here is a video, beating dyslexia, from the UK which sounds out blue as buhluhoo at minute 1.55.
Listen to a video here that has been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube which teaches sounds represented by letters wrongly.
Kids get confused when we teach them that ‘a’ is for apple and then teach them words such as ace, ahead, arm, all, without telling them that letters represent more than one sound. Listen to my YouTube video here.
In the UK, schools are teaching letter sounds without teaching kids letter names. Kids get confused when we teach them words using sounds of letter names such as bee, deep, giraffe, pea, etc. Listen to my video on this here.
We teach kids wrongly and then say they are instructional casualties but don’t know what it is that they are being instructed wrongly.
When I tell what it is that is the main issue I am told that the answer cannot be that simple.
As these children improve their word recognition skills, in the later grades they become able to efficiently recognize all the words on the pages they are to read. At this point, these children are able to understand through print anything they can understand through speech – for them, language comprehension has now become the limiting factor on reading comprehension. It is important for educators to keep these relationships in mind as they think about supporting the reading development of their students.”  Hoover & Tunmer (2018)
“If decoding plays a central role in the reading process, then it seems sensible to give it a comparable place in instruction… It might well be that direct instruction in Synthetic Phonics is the fastest route to skilled reading.”  Gough & Tunmer (1986)
How do many children improve their word recognition skills in the later grades?
I have asked the above question and given the answer in my blog posts. A majority of kids who are confused, struggle and somehow figure out implicitly a way to read. Thank goodness for this innate ability of kids figuring out to read using patterns and analogies.
Yes, decoding is the central role in the reading process. This foundational skill needs to be put in place to ensure kids are not confused and disengage from learning to read.
It does not matter whether instruction is by way of synthetic phonics or by any other method. There are millions of kids around the world who have learned to read without teachers having heard the words ‘synthetic phonics’. There are many students who are taught synthetic phonics who are unable to read. So, let us get to the bottom of this by asking what is being instructed wrongly.
The post commented on was written by Stephen Parker from Boston in December 2021.