After hearing these stories about high school juniors, it becomes easy to agree with her letter’s assessment that we are in “one of the greatest literary crises ever encountered.” That teacher is on the front lines, and she says it’s really an uphill battle every day. The schools are using the wrong tactics if they want to solve the illiteracy problem. The problem starts in the first grade where kids are not taught to sound out words, but only taught to memorize a few dozen one-syllable words they can recognize by sight and remember. Much of the time they guess at the words from the pictures on the page. As they grow older, students are increasingly handicapped by being unable to read new material. Forget about reading the classics of English literature. It’s no wonder that American students rank poorly on international tests.
The greatest injustice America has done to poor and minority kids is to keep them years in school but never teach them how to read. You have to be able to read in order to live the American dream.
Listen to the radio commentary here: