Don't Accept Excuses — Your Child Can Learn to Read

Can't read it, and weep
Every year, thousands of Oklahoma children fall victim to a debilitating condition: illiteracy.

More than a third of Oklahoma's public-school 4th graders cannot read at even a basic level. The numbers are even worse for minority students. Many of these children, thinking there's something wrong with them, will go through life with unspeakable distress. As their frustration mounts, many will slide into delinquent behavior. Many are destined for welfare or prison.

Illiterate children grow up to become illiterate adults. "More than 20 percent of our state’s population, or nearly 400,000 people, can’t read," according to state Sen. Earl Garrison (D-Muskogee), a longtime Oklahoma educator who holds a doctorate in education.

After reviewing the most recent literacy data produced by the federal government, Martha Gregory, a researcher for the Tulsa City-County Library System, concluded that "the record for the nation is abysmal and we [Oklahoma] are for the most part in step." Fully 43 percent of Oklahoma's adult population reads at a 7th-grade level or lower. Appallingly, more than half of Oklahoma’s high-school graduates — and fully 13 percent of Oklahoma's college graduates — read at at a 7th-grade level or lower.

This massive failure is as unnecessary as it is heartbreaking. "To teach a child to read properly is not difficult," says education author Douglas Wilson. "Local education professionals have made it seem difficult, and the entire process has been shrouded with arcane professional terminology. But the only term that concerned parents need to know and understand is phonics."

"It's almost a sin what we're doing to our children," says phonics tutor Sylvia Brown, a former public school speech pathologist, assistant principal, and principal in Tulsa. "In my 30-some years of teaching, I have not met a child who couldn't read when we go to the basics and teach him his alphabet then teach him his sounds. I haven't met one yet. Maybe there is one out there on this planet, but I don't believe there is."

Your child needs a strong foundation in phonics. He or she needs to be taught — in a direct, systematic, and intensive manner — how to match sounds with the letters that spell them.

In the words of world-renowned reading expert Siegfried Engelmann, professor emeritus of education at the University of Oregon: "If your child is not reading by the end of the first grade and is not retarded (IQ below 75), do not accept excuses that blame your child."

Do not allow your child to be a victim of a teachin' deficit disorder. He or she can learn to read. Excuses — such as "your child has a learning disability," "your child has emotional problems," "your child is dyslexic," or "your child just isn't ready" — are not acceptable.

What to Do

To find out how well your child can read, use this reading competency test.

If your child is in a public school and is not learning to read, you must ask the school to give your child a firm foundation in phonics.

Another option is to seek out a private school (though you'll want to make sure it's one that provides a firm foundation in phonics). If you can't afford the tuition, help is available:
  1. If your child is a special-education student — if he or she is on an individualized education program (IEP) — he or she is eligible to receive a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to attend a private school. 
  2. Whether or not your child is in special education, you can apply for a private-school scholarship from philanthropic organizations such as the Opportunity Scholarship FundGO for Catholic Schools, the Catholic Schools Opportunity Scholarship Fund, or the Oklahoma Scholarship Fund.
Or, you can do it yourself. Susie and I recommend the book below. As she will be quick to tell you, teaching your child to read may turn out to be the most fulfilling thing you'll ever do.

[Cross-posted at Choice Remarks]

UPDATE: A high school English teacher at a top-ranked "Blue Ribbon School of Excellence" informs us that her high school juniors can't read.

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