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Norfolk and Virginia Beach schools: reading is still the problem

Reading is the one skill that children need ASAP so they can go on to all the others subjects, such as history, geography, science, and literature.

Basically, the bottom line is very brutal. No reading means no education.

All phonics expert say they will teach children to read in four months and certainly by the end of first grade. So any child's progress is easy to check out. Any school’s competence is easy to check out.

Ask children in the second and third grades: how’s your reading? Pick a simple book at random and tell them to read a page. If they cannot do this, it means the school may as well go out of business. It is certainly not performing its essential function.

Surprisingly to many, the Reading Wars are still very much with us. The same oblivious educators who kicked out phonics in 1930 are still in business, still trying to undermine reading. Apparently they are happy only if everybody is functioning at the same mediocre level.

How do you know when these people are operating in your town? It’s easy. Teachers send home lists of sight-words to memorize. That’s happening right now in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Parents report an epidemic of sight-words.

Sight-words can basically be defined as words treated as graphic designs, like a corporate logo. Think for example of the Nike swoosh. Suppose your teacher tells you the word is pronounced “athlete.” Now you have to memorize that design so well that you can instantly say “athlete.”

The problem is that most humans can memorize a few dozen or even a few hundred sight-words but 500 is a killer for most people. As sight-words pile up in the memory, children get confused. They learn a new one but forget an earlier one. After all, English word-designs are often quite similar.

Memorizing lots of sight-words is basically a hopeless task. Many children give up early in their education. These victims of bad teaching methods remain functionally illiterate for the rest of their lives, despite the fact that they are completely capable of learning to read.

If your children are coming home with lists of sight-words, you have a problem. Get involved. Teach them how phonics works. They learn the alphabet, then the sounds represented by the letters. That’s how all phonetic languages work. English is a phonetic language. There is only one smart way to go.


The video above shows in a few minutes the huge differences between phonics and sight-words.

If you live in a community where the schools use sight-words, consider teaching your children to read. See “54: Preemptive Reading,” a quick introduction to phonics.


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