The NSW Department of Education’s Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation published its report last year finding that Reading Recovery (used in almost a thousand of its primary schools) should be ‘restricted to the lowest performing students’.
The mere mention of Reading Recovery sparks vigorous debate in a war that has been ongoing for decades between the behaviourists (phonics) and constructivists (whole language).
It’s a highly charged topic that draws comment and divides educators, parents and the media along the phonics versus whole language battle lines.
Teaching children to read is perhaps the most fundamental task of educators. We learn to speak before we ever read and children do not come to reading naturally nor does it happen overnight.
Teaching reading is a highly developed skill and the best defence we have in the “reading wars” is to improve the practice of all teachers so that every teacher is a teacher of reading.
Intervention programs like Reading Recovery are not designed to be a substitute for good classroom practice – it is the corollary of supporting the most vulnerable readers and creating professional learning opportunities within the school.
Teaching children to read doesn’t begin at home and end when students leave primary school. Improving literacy is a community responsibility and it needs a community response (K-12).
The best approach to learning how to read is an integrated approach to teaching. Arguing over which method is superior doesn’t move us any closer to winning the war on literacy.