I've been active on a literacy forum for the last month or two. It's astonishing how much sophistry and disinformation created over the last 75 years is still with us. They ed schools keep it going. The teachers are assured that certain things are true....
I want to address teachers who suspect they've been told things that are not true. And now they're looking around trying to figure out what is the truth....
The truth is that English is a phonetic language and you have to start off with some variation of phonics if you want your kids to read.
I just put up a new video about this where I quote seven of the major experts. These are people who spent their whole lives in the trenches, so to speak. And they all say the exact same thing: if you do it the right way, reading is easy. It takes a few months or maybe most of a year. But at that point virtually every kid can read.
Do you know of a single public school that promises results like that? Not very many. Anyway here's the video, "Reading Is Easy. If you want to make kids illiterate, that will take some work." It's under 4 minutes, completely self-explanatory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JV0tPGn-Ws
I write about this subject all the time because if kids can't read, everything else comes to a stop. Look at a Dolch list for fifth grade. That shows you what the IRA and Whole Word were aiming for. The kids are almost teenagers and they can't reed. It's easy to deduce from this that the people in charge were not seriously aiming for literacy. Perhaps, in the spirit of John Dewey, they were aiming for semi-literacy. That's the best you can say for them. For me this is educational malpractice and not good enough.
I want to add an anecdote. A few months back a father found me on the Internet and told me this story: "I'm smart. My wife is smart. My boy is smart. How come he can't read???!!! I talk to the principal and she tells me, 'Your son is getting plenty of phonics.' But when he comes home at night, his homework consists entirely of memorizing a list of sight-words. What's going on?"
I believe this is happening all over the country. I explained to him that most of the schools use some variation of Balanced Literacy, and this is just a fancy way of justifying that the kids start off the same way they did 50 years ago in the dark days of look-say. I gave him some articles to read, and we traded a few more emails, and six weeks later he wrote that his boy was reading titles off the family's bookshelf. "Daddy, I can read this too." That's how close the kid was. He may have figured it out during the next year by himself. But he might just as well have been put in remediation and given Ritalin for ADHD. At the time the father contacted me, the boy was officially designated "a failing reader." And this is in an upper middle class community with a reputation for good schools. Scary.