Reading Instruction Bait-and-Switch

You can listen to the text portion of this blog by pressing play.

Is reading instruction bait-and-switch happening in your school? This is a video interview with reading specialist Faith Borkowsky.

In this interview, you will learn about:

  1. The jargon some school districts use to make parents think their child is getting the help they need
  2. The difference between balanced literacy and structured literacy instruction
  3. Ineffective techniques like Skippy Frog, Tryin’ Lion, Chunky Monkey, and Eagle Eye that parents should watch out for

My biggest takeaway from “Is Reading Instruction Bait-and-Switch Happening in Your School?” with Faith Borkowsky is how reading instruction has changed, and not for the better, from when I was a young dyslexic child struggling with reading.

When I was in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Carson, could not understand why I was having so much trouble with reading (among other things). A special education teacher named Mrs. Davis finally gave me the type of help I needed in reading instruction—the very type of reading instruction that many schools no longer teach.

Mrs. Davis had been taking some extension courses about dyslexia and recognized my symptoms. That’s when I was officially diagnosed as dyslexic. From that point forward I was excused from Mrs. Carson’s class for one hour each day and Mrs. Davis worked with me one-on-one. She helped me with my reading, and that was a huge turning point in my education.

Even after all these years I still remember my sessions with Mrs. Davis quite vividly. I remember her opening a book that I liked (mainly because it had a lot of pictures) for me to read aloud. The very first thing she did was to cover the pictures, which startled me because I had always gravitated to just using the pictures to interpret a story. Once she covered the pictures, she would take a card and place it under a sentence so I could better focus on each word. Then she would step me through each word, identifying the syllables and helping me to sound them out. Phonics and phonemic awareness were what helped me to begin decoding the written word.

And here’s the thing: all kids—not just dyslexics—learn to read best when they are taught how words actually work, rather than being taught to guess at words and word fragments. Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction are the only effective ways to do that.

A confused female teacher compares notes on her computer to some textbooks. Reading instruction bait and switch promises one type of reading instruction, but delivers a different, less effective method.

This phonics-first approach to teaching reading is called structured literacy. Many parents are aware of the value of this method of instruction, but they may not be aware of a recent rebranding of literacy instruction in many schools. Now many schools have renamed reading instruction techniques. On the surface they sound very much like structured literacy, which makes parents happy. But upon further investigation, these techniques involve a lot of guessing, looking at pictures, and other methods that are less valuable for teaching reading than focusing on phonics.

What do parents need to be aware of to make sure their children are receiving the effective reading instruction they need? Find out from reading specialist Faith Borkowsky in this interview, “Is Reading Instruction Bait-and-Switch Happening in Your School?”

Faith Borkowsky is a Reading and Learning Specialist, Regional Literacy Coach, a Certified Wilson and IDA Dyslexia Practitioner. She is also the founder of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching.

Failing Students or Failing Schools: A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention is available on Amazon and Audible (audio book) and from other online retailers.

Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn is also available from Amazon, Audible, and other online retailers.