May 9, 2022

Learning to Read: A Right Not a Privilege

I was speaking with a forward-thinking principal of a Victorian primary school the other day. We had been discussing her plan to extend the excellent evidence-based literacy program she has adopted by introducing a similar approach to teaching numeracy.  

‘That’s wonderful,’ I said, ‘How lucky the pupils attending this school are!’

But I was so wrong. Those children are not lucky, they are simply receiving the education they deserve. The fact is, there are countless children who are unlucky because they are not being taught using techniques that have been proven to enable them to reach their full reading potential.

An effective education is a right, not a privilege.

Three national reviews of reading have come to the same conclusion - that systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the most effective way to teach reading:

National Reading Panel 2000 (USA).

The Committee recommended that teachers ‘provide systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction so that children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency’.

National Inquiry into Teaching Literacy 2005 (Australia)

The report states that ‘the evidence is clear that the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective way of teaching young children to read, particularly those at risk of having problems with reading.’

Independent Review into the Teaching of Early Reading 2006 (United Kingdom)

Sir Jim Rose’s report concluded that systematic phonics instruction within a broad literacy curriculum appeared to have a greater effect on children’s progress in reading than whole language or whole word approaches. He recommended that ‘systematic phonics instruction should be part of every literacy teacher’s repertoire and a routine part of literacy teaching’.

We are nearly twenty years on from that American Reading Panel and children are still being failed. According to UNESCO, ‘the “multiplier effect” of literacy empowers people, enables them to participate fully in society and contributes to improve livelihoods’. The problem is, there are more than 796 million people in the world who cannot read and write. The cost to the global economy is estimated at AUD $1.7trillion.

This should not be happening.

Even children who have specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia can learn to read when they are taught using systematic phonics instruction.

So why are children not being taught using these techniques? Just Google ‘reading wars’ and you will get a taste of the bureaucracies and complexities that are involved in this area.

Enough is enough. There are some awesome people campaigning for change - I would urge you to support some of the active campaigns out there such as CodeRead and the campaign to remove Reading Recovery.

But change is not happening quickly enough. Every child failed is one too many.  

That is why the Bookbot team is passionate about harnessing the power of systematic phonics instruction and making it widely accessible to those that need it.

Bookbot removes many of the barriers to using this technique, such as a lack of training and the cost of tutors, by integrating it into a stand-alone app.

Our vision is to disrupt the field of literacy by providing accessible, high quality, evidence-based teaching techniques to anyone who wants them, not just those lucky enough to go to the right school.

Download Bookbot now to