Reading is a skill that needs to be taught to kids. There are more and more states, cities, and districts that require their schools to teach phonics. It’s a welcome development in a country struggling with dismal reading results and now faced with continuous learning losses triggered by COVID-19.
The importance of showing young children the connections between sounds in speech and the letters representing them in print has been overlooked for too long. Millions of children’s literacy and life prospects are hurt by word-guessing strategies and picture book appreciation. Following the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, most U.S. fourth graders have only basic or below basic reading skills.
It is critical to reform reading curriculums and retrain teachers who will implement them, but more is needed. It’s not just schools that provide ineffective literacy instruction. On par with Romania and Cyprus, the U.S. spends just .03% of its GDP on early childhood care. Comparatively, Iceland and Sweden spent more than 1.5%.
Based on anatomical, physiological, and gene-expression studies, primary brain circuits and networks develop by age 2. There is strong evidence that educational trajectories are set early in preliteracy skills. Children who engage in more dynamic conversation with caregivers between 18 and 24 months do better in middle school than adolescents who weren’t exposed to such exchanges. They tend to have higher IQs, better verbal skills, and a more extensive vocabulary.
Schools must teach students what they need to know. Specifically, focusing on oral language, familiarity with print, letter knowledge, and speech-sound awareness will help babies and toddlers become fluent readers. Parenting and caregiver support are just as crucial to ensuring children learn these lessons well.
“The kindergarten crisis” describes poor reading achievement dipping to new lows during pandemic times, though kindergarten is only a snapshot. It takes time, love, and care for children to distinguish letters from other marks on paper or consciously distinguish between English sounds. Despite this, millions of families are overstretched, stressed, and unsupported to provide adequate language nourishment.