In the US, recent news about reading has been discouraging. In the UK, however, there's reason for cheer. There, a relatively simple method appears to have made a dramatic difference for struggling readers.
The BBC is reporting today that results from a three-year pilot program show that on the average pupils boosted their reading age by nearly two years in four or five months.
The program, called Every Child a Reader, involves more than 5,000 pupils who received one-to-one tutoring for 30 minutes a day to help them catch up with their peers.
In the US, the debate as to whether or not instruction in phonics is the key to reading success has been fierce. Every Child a Reader uses a mixture of teaching systems. It includes phonics, but does not rely on them exclusively.
Perhaps the best thing about this news is its close link to common sense. That regular, one-on-one instruction would help challenged readers seems obvious. And that phonics is an essential – but not exclusive – tool for reading instruction makes equally good sense.
In addition, the program seems highly replicable.
Perhaps some of the $6 billion that the US has spent on the phonics-heavy Reading First – only to discover recently that students involved have made no gains in reading comprehension – could be redirected to a US version of Every Child a Reader.