Big Changes Coming for Reading Instruction!

It is such an exciting time for teachers, administrators, parents, and struggling readers across the nation! So many changes are currently in the works, regarding reading instruction in our educational system. Although the changes are happening slowly, and the transformation will take several years to thoroughly implement, I truly believe that we are moving in the right direction!

Many organizations are dutifully working to affect change. Proposed legislation for dyslexics, related to identification, intervention, and remediation, is slowly becoming a reality. The IDEA Law that has largely discriminated against dyslexic students since its inception in 1973, is being called to task. A few college and university teacher preparation programs are becoming accredited, to educate teachers to teach through the Approach of Structured Literacy (Orton Gillingham). Some of our current state-certified teachers are becoming certified in the Structured Literacy Approach, through accredited independent training programs. Some school districts are choosing to train teachers in the Science of Reading. The stars are aligning, one by one!

This is also a time of uncertainty and confusion. Teachers are still teaching Balanced Reading, but will soon be expected to learn the new Approach. School districts are, in large, still failing students in regard to literacy instruction, and will eventually have to navigate new waters. Many current teachers are heavily resisting the forward movement that is occurring, and they are fighting to hold on to Balanced Literacy instruction. Teacher preparation colleges and universities are still teaching the Balanced Literacy Approach, and do not necessarily have the knowledge or the trained/certified faculty to make the change. Parents are still desperately searching for solutions. But change takes time. And change takes passion. And mostly, change takes action.

I speak from the position of a parent of a dyslexic child, as well as from the position of a Dyslexia Interventionist. While I am part of the change today, I was not effective enough or knowledgeable enough to change the circumstances for my own child thirty years ago. It is a wound that never really heals, even as I soldier on and help others. It is a wound that I'm sure many parents and teachers live with day to day.

Beyond the enigma of that which is dyslexia, there are millions of other children who could successfully learn how to read, given the proper instruction. I see them every day in my practice - third, fourth and fifth graders who appeared to be good readers in the early grades - who are now lost and overwhelmed, as their sight reading skills become backlogged with new vocabulary that has yet to be committed to visual memory. Structured Literacy is beneficial for ALL READERS, and in fact, it is the state-of-the-art approach for reading instruction. Structured Literacy teaches the actual structure of the English language. Structured Literacy is THE SCIENCE of READING.

What is The Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading encompasses extensive research on the human brain, the acquisition of reading skills, and the English alphabetic language. The science of reading implores the importance of teaching reading through a phonetic approach, while simultaneously teaching the structure and the rules inherent in our language. As an alphabetic language, English requires the reader to know the rules and apply them rapidly and to the point of mastery. Decoding and encoding skills in our language rely on letter-sound correspondence, the understanding of syllabication rules, knowledge of the 6 syllable types that are found in our lexicon, and the exceptions that apply. The science of reading informs us that these skills are best taught and learned through an explicit, systematic, sequential and cumulative, multisensory approach, with much repetition, and taught to the point of mastery at every level. The science of reading also informs us that reading difficulties can be identified at the kindergarten level, which is the period of child development during which intervention is most effective.

What Changes Are Occurring?

Many changes are making their way into the periphery of American literacy education at present. Here are just a few highlights:

The International Dyslexia Association has pioneered several new initiatives to affect change in reading instruction, alongside their long-standing resources:

  1. The Independent School Network - helps parents to find independent schools which are qualified to teach dyslexic students
  2. Conferences, Workshops, and Webinars - for parents, teachers, and administrators, for initial and continuing and education in the field of dyslexia
  3. The Dyslexia Handbook - offers guidelines for diagnosis, intervention, and remediation
  4. Fact Sheets - offer up-to-the-minute literacy research and best practices
  5. CERI Certification - provides avenues for Structured Literacy Training and Certification
  6. Knowledge and Practice Standards - lists the vital components of Structured Literacy, and outlines what teachers and administrators need to know, for training and certification purposes
  7. Provider Directory - provides a list of teachers who are certified through accredited Structured Literacy teacher training programs
  8. Accreditation of Higher Education Programs - accredits colleges and universities to administer and deliver teacher education programs which are in line with the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Structured Literacy
  9. Accreditation of Structured Literacy programs that wish to be accredited by IDA:

Decoding Dyslexia is a grassroots organization whose mission is to raise dyslexia awareness, enact change at the legislative level, and provide support and networking for teachers and parents interested in the cause.

IMSLEC (International Multisensory Structured Language Council) offers accreditation for Structured Literacy teacher training programs which meet the standards set forth by their organization.

As these three major organizations work together, side by side, and alone, an enormous wave is forming in the sea of educational-status-quo! I feel it happening daily, as I read posts and blogs, and see articles coming forth. The message is bursting with hope - and anger - and frustration - and passion. Mostly, it is bursting with action. Action is taking place. Advocacy is digging in its heals. It is finally time for change! I hope you will be ready.

Jenelle Erickson Boyd, M.Ed., CDI, Author of this BLOG, is a Certified Reading Specialist, a Certified Dyslexia Interventionist, a State Certified P-3 Teacher, and a Montessori Certified Teacher. She is an educational conference speaker, an avid advocate for students with reading difficulties, a teacher trainer, and the Author of The Lil' Reading Scientists Literacy Solutions TM Structured Literacy Curriculum.