PANDA: Right to Read report offers a great opportunity

Erin Panda, Assistant Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University, had a piece recently published in The Hamilton Spectator in which she advocated for new methods to be used when teaching children to read in Ontario schools.

She writes:

“Every day my daughter tells me about the letter sounds she learned in kindergarten. Yesterday it was “ng” as in the picture she drew of her “strong” daddy.

As a cognitive neuroscientist who studies the link between learning to read and changes in the brain, I am relieved that her teacher has chosen to emphasize phonics instruction — teaching the relationship between the sounds of language and the way they look in print.

Decades of research shows that a “structured” approach to literacy puts students on the right track to becoming fluent readers. This includes explicit and systematic phonics instruction and other strategies for recognizing parts of words and spelling, along with teaching new vocabulary and strategies for understanding what they read. 

Unfortunately, this focus on phonics is not found in most kindergarten/Grade 1 classrooms in Ontario. The Ontario curriculum has instead focused on the “3-cuing method,” which encourages students to guess words using context, pictures or grammatical cues. This “inquiry” approach to literacy assumes that children will learn to read and write merely by being exposed to print.

But learning to read is not a natural process. It requires the brain to rewire itself so the parts that recognize visual patterns are tightly linked to the parts that sequence speech sounds and store word meanings. The “3-cuing method” is an ineffective way for beginning readers to make those links and learn how to decode new words, but it remains the main method promoted in the Ontario language curriculum.”

Continue reading the full article on the Hamilton Spectator website.

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