California’s dyslexic governor needs to step up to solve our childhood reading crisis | #education | #technology | #training

Last December, Gov. Gavin Newsom published a children’s book about his struggle with dyslexia. As I read it to my 9-year-old son, my voice shook. Newsom is honest about how agonizing it felt as a child not to be able to read until he got the support he needed. The book is also a story of resilience, and as the parent of a dyslexic child, it rang true.

But as someone who has had to learn more about the science of reading than I ever expected, I hope the governor will take a hard look at how we are teaching all kids to read in California. Because we are failing them.

California’s reading scores are dismal, with 68% of fourth-graders reading below grade level. This is the result of the disastrous decision in the 1980s for the state to embrace whole language, the idea that children should learn to recognize words and phrases through context, guessing and memorization. But evidence shows the whole language approach has left millions of kids behind. What children actually need is to be taught how to decode, or sound out, words — a phonics-based approach called structured literacy that requires explicit instruction and works with all students, including those with learning disabilities and second language learners.

The debate over whether children should be taught to read through whole language (rebranded as balanced literacy in the ’90s) or phonics became known as the Reading Wars, turning a complex issue into a catchy cultural meme. Which is depressing, because how we teach kids to read really matters. It can be the difference between an intact, confident child and one who thinks they can’t succeed in school.

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