kitchen table math, the sequel: please sign up - & "Phonics Mommy & Me"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

please sign up - & "Phonics Mommy & Me"

The DI list carries a message saying that Reading First is not dead (yet). Behind the scenes people are lobbying to keep it alive, and they need to hear from us.

I've joined the National Association for Reading First and left this comment:
Thank you for putting together this organization.

Is there any chance the National Association for Reading First could help organize volunteer service clubs to teach reading to young children using SBRR curricula?

Given the fact that Barnes & Noble appears to be struggling financially, B&N management might be interested in exploring a partnership. B&N stores have space to teach children & would sell the curricular materials to participating parents, which would offset the costs involved in scheduling volunteers & classes (and perhaps produce a profit as parents make additional book purchases on class days). A B&N phonics-based early reading program would garner them good publicity & would substantially increase the number of U.S. children who grow up to be pleasure readers.

B&N wouldn't need to publicize such a program as a challenge to public schools. They could simply tap into the existing preschool market with a new concept: a Phonics Mommy and Me.

For B&N it would be a case of doing well by doing good.

19 comments:

concernedCTparent said...

Catherine, that's a brilliant idea. I'd be on board to volunteer in a hot second. Please keep us posted.

Jean said...

I do like that idea!

K9Sasha said...

That's a great idea! Sounds like it would be a win for all involved.

Catherine Johnson said...

I would love to do it -- and I've contacted Mary Damer, who said she would be involved if a pilot program were set up in Ohio.

What is my next step??

I've drafted a letter to the head of B&N --- or should I approach management at one of my local stores first rather than risk getting a 'no' from the top?

I do love this idea. It just makes sense. Engelmann says that when parents teach their kids to read before they get to school whole language doesn't affect them; they've already learned the essential left-to-right decoding skills to automaticity.

So far, everyone I've consulted, including the books I've read, says it's quite easy to teach most kids to decode.

I do have a question about kids who aren't easy: what exactly would happen there? How would volunteer teachers handle this group?

K9Sasha said...

For all the kids, including the strugglers, you would use a good decodable program, like Phonics Pathways, to teach left-to-right decoding, combined with the RALP or BRI little books (same books, different companies) to provide practice reading connected text. These little books have the best decodable stories that I've seen. They are longer and more interesting than the Primary Phonics books, and introduce new code more slowly than the Bob books. The only thing different with the strugglers is that they will take more repetitions to learn the sounds to automaticity, and to read fluently.

Catherine Johnson said...

Here's my next question: what about kids who really are dyslexic?

In other words, say you're setting up a volunteer program & you're still on the steep part of your learning curve & you encounter a child who is having a very tough time of it.

What happens then?

(I haven't delved into dyslexia books yet; they're next on the list.)

At the moment, I'm asking a pragmatic question. If I'm trying to persuade B&N to pilot a Phonics Mommy & Me, and the B&N person asks me about dyslexic preschoolers, what is my answer?

Catherine Johnson said...

Liz Brown has plenty of experience in this area, btw. I think it's probably OK to mention that in her volunteer teaching of reading she does encounter children whose problems go beyond poor instruction via whole language/balanced literacy.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think BRI & RALP are:

Beginning Reading Instruction

(lots of good stuff on the BRI web site)

Reading for All Learners

Allison said...

In Saint Paul, there are no dyslexic preschoolers. Dyslexia can't be diagnosed til 4th GRADE they say.

To interpret, they mean that you haven't failed to learn to read until you're in 4th grade not reading. Short of that, you are simply "not yet ready" and could blossom into a reader at any time.

So your answer to B&N is that kind of hogwash--the can-kicking kind.

If you meant real answer to a truly "learning disabled" child, you need to ask what you mean by "truly".

Allison said...

I don't think you should think much about non-parental/non caregiver volunteers at all.

The target is mommy or daddy or nanny. I think the truth is that if you have such a cohort, you're self selecting for kids that have the enough right at home to make the struggling less likely.

Catherine Johnson said...

Now I'm confused -- didn't the law change?

I thought you had to start identifying kids earlier now -- isn't that what RTI is about?

Good point about families.

Though I think it would be fun to involve high school kids - maybe so their moms could go shop for 15 minutes while the volunteers worked with the kids.

You'd be teaching high schoolers about scientifically-based reading instruction, which would be good.

palisadesk said...

Now I'm confused -- didn't the law change?

I thought you had to start identifying kids earlier now -- isn't that what RTI is about?


Yes, the law has changed, but RTI is still optional, not mandatory. Many districts still operate on the old "discrepancy" model, which means students cannot be classified as "LD" or "dyslexic" until there is a significant discrepancy between their "assessed ability" (IQ) and their actual academic achievement. In most places, this "discrepancy" must be at least two years.

Curiously, the "discrepancy" is tossed aside in the case of gifted underachievers -- a child with "assessed ability" at the top of the range -- one who should be achieving three or four years above grade level -- will not be deemed worthy of assistance if s/he is at grade level or slightly below.

Psychologists no longer accept the "discrepancy" hypothesis as empirically tenable, mainly because there is no diference between higher and lower IQ students in what measures successfully address their learning needs, thus a case cannot be made for "higher IQ" low performing students needing some kind of intervention different from that of lower-IQ students exhibiting the same instructional needs.

The goal of RTI is to provide all students with appropriate, timely and proven instructional intervention as soon as the need forit is evident, and to postpone ( or obviate entirely) classifying or labeling children as needing "special" education until such time as it is clear that even good instruction does not benefit them.

Some useful links about RTI:
IDEA 2004
Info from Wightslaw
Lots of useful stuff re RTI and also regular teaching

palisadesk said...

Here's my next question: what about kids who really are dyslexic?


If you are referring to preschoolers, it would be a very rare event to find a child who meets the International Dyslexia Association (or NICHD) definition of "dyslexic." Part of the definition stipulates that "dyslexia" is the result of a neurological condition and not due to lack of effective instruction.

Well, in the case of preschoolers, there hasn't been any instruction, so you can't infer much of anything. Even in K-1, the range of what is considered normal development is extremely broad, and children show huge intra-individual differences as well as differences among same-age peers. Children who are slow to get off the starting block may suddently accelerate and leave others behind, and the opposite can also occur.There are definite red flags and warning signs of "dyslexia" (or, more broadly, of language learning problems) but these should be an impetus for effective instruction, not for labeling the child.

I think we should be extremely wary of implying that a young child has some "neurological" impediment to learning, absent medical evidence of such.

Now sometimes there *is* medical evidence, especially in children with birth trauma, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, diagnosed language impairment, and so on. But for every child with an identified medical issue who merits a diagnosis of "LD" or "dyslexia" (the terminology differs by district) there are dozens whose problems can be dealt with instructionally and who do *not* deserve a label suggesting a lifelong neurological condition.

Show me the evidence, I say.

Of course, if they "act" or "look like" children with "dyslexia," then let's give them the effective instruction that works with "dyslexic" children. Duhhh.

Thus one reason children are rarely identified LD or dyslexic before 3rd-4th grade is that the accepted definition requires them to have failed to profit from effective instruction.

Of course, rarely does anyone ask if the "balanced literacy" potpourri was actually effective, research-based or empirically justified. Shaywitz has suggested, obliquely, that ineffective tuition can actually cause a kind of "acquired dyslexia."

After all, if children don't learn to track l-r, decode words automatically, and instead look all over the page for "cues" to the words, it's no wonder they get diagnosed with poor directionality, reversals, weak word ID skills, and so on.

A lot of this would be obviated with systematic "schoolproofing" of preschool children. The Bereiter-Engelmann preschool kids entered their abysmal neighborhood schools well ahead of middle-class peers, and that advantage stayed with them. There was both an academic advantage and (more importantly, I think) an affective and motivational one. They saw themselves as high performers who could learn and succeed at anything.

With an attitude like that, a kid is set up to do well, and will have greater tolerance of frustration, ambiguity and the need to invest effort before reaping a reward.

palisadesk said...

Another thought.

Though I think it would be fun to involve high school kids - maybe so their moms could go shop for 15 minutes while the volunteers worked with the kids.

You'd be teaching high schoolers about scientifically-based reading instruction, which would be good.


Check out this program, which does exactly what you suggest, except that the high school students are trained, and paid for their contribution. I think this delivers a powerful message about the importance of what they do. It probably also enhances continuity and commitment.

READNYC site

They focus on Kindergarten and first grade students, but the same model could be used with preschoolers.

Allison said...

I think you need to think about the model.

Preschooler now means kids who are too young to be in full day kindergarten, which means 4 and under.

Many 4 year olds are in school-like PreK. Many 3 year olds are in PreK. Large swaths of 3 and 4 year old are in daycare all day long.

You will not be reaching them.

The only people who have the time and disposable income to do this are largely SAHPs or nannies, and even so, the demographic is for kids under 5. You are suggesting teaching phonics to 2,3 and 4 year olds. There are lots of parents who would do this, but they certainly not independent of SES.

And right now, even those parents are cutting back on the "Classes" they take their preschoolers too--the ones where they have to pay.

So, given that you're talking about a once a week or more "class" for 2-4 year olds, there's no way to fit the "Volunteer model". The point is parent/child bonding, or parent/child teaching/learning, or "my kids need to be challenged, and you, college-educated nanny, are going to take them to this class."

The kinds of parents who would WANT this aren't going to be interested in leaving their 2 year old with someone else in a public place. NO WAY.
I'm not going to let some other stranger, be it a teenager or a volunteer, work alone with my kid while I wander a B&N. Neither are the other parents who'd participate. They are a) looking for things to do with their kid, or they'd have put their kid in preschool already.
(more)

Allison said...

Sorry, to clarify: I understand you still need someone to "volunteer" to be the teacher who leads the class of parent-child pairs. That's fine, but you need to move away from someone who is just any-old-person. They need to be seen as competent in their field--teachers or librarians who have been doing story time like things for a while, and who can keep the kids' attention. I'm not going to bother for a college student.

And now you need these folks free in the daytime during the week...

Allison said...

Here in Minnesota, the Minnesota Library Association has a HUGE push on "Getting Ready to Read." They try to teach "early literacy". They have posters, hand outs, bookmarks, and big glossies at the libraries and bookshops in MN. Every one of those sheets talks about the six early literacy skills: narrative skills, letter knowledge, print awareness, vocabulary, print motivation, and phonological awareness. Story times in the Twin Cities at least have a huge push to tell the parents that they are incorporating these 6 into every storytime, and that reading, singing, rhyming, etc. with your baby or preschooler is getting them ready to read.

I don't know if MLA is dovetailing this program with typical reading instruction in MN. My guess is they did this on their own, and they are less anti phonics than most institutions, as libraries want people to read books.

I think if your frame this class as "phonics", no one will participate. You need to frame it as "getting ready to read" which is less charged. No one can be against getting your kid ready to read...even if they have a lot of strong passions on the phonics/whole word/balanced literacy questions.

Sell it as "early literacy".

Allison said...

i'd look to the libraries, myself. librarians are always looking for ways to do outreach and get people into their rooms.

Crimson Wife said...

About the kids being in preschool/daycare thing- who says the program has to be held on a weekday?

I do agree that it should be a parent-participation program since there's no way I'd leave my young child with some stranger in a bookstore.