My interest in the subject of classical reading instruction began with my own son, who was then in 4th grade, and reading on a first grade level.
A homeschooler, I had successfully taught two daughters who were excellent readers, so I had thought of myself as a good teacher. But this child defied all my efforts. I had to research how to help him, and I had to succeed in teaching him, because otherwise, to my mind, not only he, but I, would be a failure.
My research led me to Romalda Bishop Spaulding and The Writing Road the Reading (published 1957) . After studying Spaulding’s work, and creating a reading intervention using her recommendations, word lists, and phonics instruction method, I was able to get my son to read on grade level by the end of 4th grade. He entered regular school after that, and to make a long story short, this year (2017) he will graduate from a respectable public university .
My son, it turned out, had a legitimate reading disability, dyslexia, although I never had him “identified” by the school and to this day he has never received any additional school services or reduced achievement expectations regarding this disability. The intervention I used addressed it such that the public school was not concerned. But in her book, Spaulding argued that dyslexia would never develop in the first place if teaching of writing and reading was, from the beginning, systematic, orderly, and explicit, following a designated pattern of instruction that was continuing until student mastery.
Since that time, I have become a pubic school teacher, an ESL teacher, grade chair, student in an education master’s in reading program, and elected ESL teacher of the year in my building. But I have struggled to carry the message of systematic phonics instruction to my colleagues. This site is my effort to reach out to the greater community of teachers, both at home and in regular schools, and try to simplify the explicit teaching methods and ideas that most exemplify a classical approach to teaching reading. It is a work in progress.
Problems in reading, to my mind, mostly have to do either with not instructing in phonics at all (yes sometimes this happens) but more often with the teacher not keeping pace with the students’ rate of learning. The struggling readers in the class are, in general, the students who didn’t get the base material (phonics and blending) the first time. This is because there’s the matter of automaticity for the teacher to consider. In order to read well, the student needs to know the name and sound of the letter immediately when he or she sees it, not sit there and think. Many students in the class will have this ability, the teacher will notice that they have it, and the five or six who are slower to learn this skill are still having to pause and think. This slower learning students need more instruction in phonics.
Once they master the phonics they will be able to read but they may require more practice and support. It is simply the case that some students learn reading more quickly and in general they will read more quickly and easily. Others will progress in reading as well but may need more support activities to keep up.
To learn more about issues with regard to teaching a struggling reader and the classical method of teaching reading, visit the blog posts below. And leave me a comment about your experience and needs. This blog is for you! I have begun creating reading interventions for other struggling students besides my own, so perhaps I can help.