DEY Responds to NPR Article: “Why Millions of Kids Cannot Read, and What Better Teaching Can Do About It”

Picture ​NPR article, published Jan. 2, 2019: Why Millions of Children Can’t Read and What Better Teaching Can Do About It by Emily Hanford NPR article, published Jan. 2, 2019:
Why Millions of Children Can’t Read and What Better Teaching Can Do About Itby Emily Hanford

Defending the Early Years was disappointed to see the NPR report Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It.  Learning to read is a complex process involving three cueing systems—syntactic, semantic, and graphic phonemic.  Children need to master all three of these systems and learn to use them simultaneously as they make sense of print.  It is erroneous to focus on just one cueing system–in the case of the NPR report, the graphic phonemic system.DEY asked Lynne Hall, a literacy expert from the Cambridge Public Schools, to comment on the NPR report.  Hall explained that teachers need to make sure children are using all three cueing systems as they are learning to read. “Guessing is not appropriate,” she said,  “but using context clues is.  If I were teaching a child who said ‘pony’ instead of ‘horse,’ I would say something like ‘yes, that makes sense, doesn’t it?  But let’s look closely at how the word on the page begins.  You said, ‘pony.’  How does pony begin?  How does the word on the page begin?  What could that word be that makes sense?  In this way, we help the child use the semantic system (meaning) to assist in learning the graphic phonemic system.”

In a report released in 2015 by Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood, early childhood experts explain that young children take years to build the foundation they need to make sense of print. They learn that real things can be represented by symbols when they play and use hands-on materials. Very slowly and with the guidance of a skilled teacher, children find meaningful ways to bring letter symbols into their play scenario, ultimately building the foundation for understanding abstract symbols in our print system.

To read more about how young children learn to read, find the full report here:
Download the full report here.

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