Children of the Code has new interviews up. Reid Lyon, the very influential National Institutes of Health researcher, talks about the disconnect between what education professors teach would-be teachers and what they do with their own children:
And when you look at professors working with their kids from birth onward, they’re reading to those kids from day one, typically. They are not only reading, but as they read even at six months of age they’re pointing out the letters and the sounds. They’re getting the kids to see the relationships between letters and sounds and vocabulary and concepts; they’re extending language. They do it on the lap; they do it at bed time; they do it at the dinner table. They have magnetic letters on the refrigerator. And what they’re doing is building not only a knowledge of language and print and how all of that goes together, but they’re building brain. We can see kids who don’t have these interactions and they show us brain development substantially different from kids who do have these interactions.
Now what is surprising is that a lot of these folks who interact with their kids in a very good nurturing environment and who do a lot of good systematic teaching from birth to five will then go into their undergraduate and graduate courses and teach their students never to do that. They teach their students never to do it because it’s not developmentally appropriate. That’s the disconnect.
. . . And we have early childhood programs where the kids go and develop good social competencies and emotional health, but the programs are bereft of any kinds of systematic interactions to do what middle and upper-middle class parents do all of the time, and the social and the emotional positives that come out of that nurturing environment go straight downhill once those kids get in school and do not learn to read.
James Wendorf of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, says most learning problems can be prevented by teaching well; only five percent of students have a true disability that requires extraordinary help.
There’s good research that points to the dramatic efficacy of good instruction. It is true that not enough good instruction is getting to kids. Kids just don’t have the benefit of it. Teachers need to be trained in order to carry out the kind of instruction that is effective. And, there is good research to show that up to ninety-five percent or so of reading problems, reading difficulties can be effectively addressed if that instruction is there and delivered in the right way. That still leaves about four to six percent of the student population that is not responding, that is still struggling, that needs some other kind of intervention, some other kind of instruction.