Only that it isn’t…

Lately there has been a lot of coverage in the media about Australia’s education system and how it is failing to teach children to learn how to read. There was a segment aired on a news network recently which reported on this issue, and called for a revamp on the way that teachers are taught how to teach children how to read. It advocated for explicit instruction and for teachers to help build the foundational skills required for reading (like phonics).

The Helipad is all aboard this train! However, some of the negative comments we read on social media were astounding. It pained us to see how ill-informed some people are (which just means that we have a lot more advocating and educating to do).  And there was a LOT of parent blaming. Our personal favourite (note the sarcasm) was:

“Read to your kids at night instead of having a wine!” (meaning that if parents read to their children every day, then their children would learn how to read. Which would be true if learning to read was like osmosis. Only that it’s not)

This is absolutely absurd! This is like saying:

“Watch a tennis match every day and you will be able to play tennis”

“Watch mummy drive and you will also be able to jump in and drive a car”

Reading is not a passive process. There is SO much research that supports this. Children need to be taught what all of those squiggly black lines mean (letters), what their names are, what sounds they make and what happens when they are combined with other letters.  It is like learning a brand new code. Explicit instruction is required to master the code. Some children are able to crack the reading code with a little practice while some children need a lot more targeted practice and repetition. Unfortunately, there are lots of children who don’t get the practice and repetition they need (due to a variety of factors that is beyond the scope of today’s post).

Yes, reading every day to your child has amazing and incredible benefits. The Helipad are big advocates for parents to read with their children every day (check out Read Aloud 15 minutes), because this helps develop a child’s vocabulary, their comprehension skills and sentence formulation. Reading everyday will also help develop your child’s love of learning and oral language skills (which is important for reading comprehension) but it will not directly teach your child how to read.

So the next time a parent is telling you their concerns about their child who is having some trouble learning how to read, please, PLEASE do not tell them that they should just read with them more. Parents do not need any one else to add to their guilt! Instead, let them know about places that they can find information to help their child, like The Helipad, or Five from Five. The Five from Five website has lots of tips and resources that parents can use to help their child crack the reading code!

Wouldn’t it be great if learning to read was like osmosis?