Talking is Natural – Reading is Not

I recently heard a fascinating piece on the differences in the human brain between learning to talk (natural and happens for most children fairly effortlessly) and learning to read (not natural, has only been around for a relatively short time in human history, and is rarely effortless for any child).

I must admit I was dismayed to hear that news and to learn that the science has been around for decades but I fear that primary education has opted for a method of “whole language” that is more entertaining (to children and to teachers) over the less delightful but far more effective method of phonics and phonemes in most of our schools throughout the nation. The results have been dismal test scores made even more dismal for the socio-economic levels of our populace who cannot afford extra tutoring, etc., that may turn this around.

The article points out, however, that when test scores on reading are examined closely, the upper-income levels/higher educated parents group of children have also lost ground in reading proficiency since the advent of “whole language” or “balanced literacy.”

I feel chagrined because I am a proficient reader and became one through the phonics and phonemes and grammar I learned in elementary school. I took this for granted when raising my daughters and routinely sounded out words with them from the time they were old enough to read along with me in our daily storytimes. A couple of our best family jokes came from the oddities of the English language and the jumps our minds can make. I told them of spending years thinking the word “misled” was pronounced “MIZled,” and one of our daughters grinned as she admitted she had been mentally pronouncing “pavilions” as “PAV-ih-LONS.” 😀

For the last few years, I have been an officer on the board of BookSpring, a children’s literacy nonprofit that provides books to children in the Central Texas area. Their goal is to reach the right kids with the right books at the right time, and they are amazingly successful at it. As you listen to or read this piece from APM Reports, you will learn as I did, that although access to quality children’s literature is part of the equation, if children are not being taught how to sound out words they don’t recognize and figure out their meanings so their vocabularies are enhanced, what resources kids are given may not be fully utilized. Sobering, indeed.

APM Reports Documentaries – Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?

The link above is not a sound bite. It is a well-researched article that talks with all sides of the often contentious “literacy war” that has been taking place for years in education and curriculum. You may or may not have even been aware of it.

Listen and then decide what you would prefer your child get as preparation for a skill that is the foundation for all other education.



1 thought on “Talking is Natural – Reading is Not

  1. I have always loved to read and it opened up a whole new world for me. I am 79 and still use phonics for a new word for me. We are cheating children of a great pleasure and I can`t imagine not having the knowledge to read!


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