For as long as Connie LuVenia Williams can remember, letters have been giving her trouble. Sure, she learned the ABCs, but making sense of how these symbols we call letters combine to form the sounds that make up the English language – that part stumped her. And from what she remembers nobody taught her those skills as a kid.
Her first teachers used Dick and Jane style books with simple, repetitive phrases.
This whole-word approach to reading teaches kids to memorize and recognize entire words rather than start by sounding out individual letters, like you would with phonics. Whole-word was prevalent in the ‘60s, but for a decade, phonics proponents had already been arguing the method produced poor reading skills. In Williams’ case, they were right.
“I never learned how to spell my middle name,” she told me as she struggled to spell out ‘LuVenia’ and turned to her driver’s license for help.
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results