Scented winds are blowing change. Swollen rivers bear swiftly forward. Moon and tides and gravitational power pull toward groundedness.
Choose your analogy. Then tie it to this: there is a burgeoning of evidence, passion, voicing of moving stories, and commitment of the power held by the people, power that is drawing, pushing and pulling Australia inexorably, ineluctably, to the widespread application of the science of reading instruction.
When all children, indeed all people, are supported to master reading and writing using the efficacious methods that are backed by scientifically-gathered evidence, they will fly to one hundred percent of their latent capacity.
And be assured, as one hundred percent of the people attain one hundred percent of their latent capacity, the entire population, as a body, will be only a fractional whisker from itself being one hundred percent fully, fabulously literate.
Bring it on!
Never before have we known so much, so thoroughly and irrefutably, about how reading and writing are learned. And that full, fabulous literacy is utterly possible regardless of the disorders and disadvantages that may be in the backgrounds and foregrounds of the learners.
An adjustment we all have to make is the lifting of our understanding about what’s possible. What’s possible has not yet been demonstrated in history.
I’ve taught men in their 50s to read. They could have learned when they were six. But we didn’t know so much then about how reading is learned. They went to what were then called special schools. They left without literacy. There’s no excuse for this now. The science of reading instruction shows us exactly what to do to successfully teach all learners at individual, small group and whole class levels.
I’ve taught men in their forties to read. They could have learned when they were six. But at that time our null hypotheses were taking us down a pedagogical path that turned out to be a dead-end for about fifty percent of learners. It was a pedagogy that did not teach the phonemic (speech sound) structure of English.
I’ve taught men in their twenties and thirties to read. With the right individualised input they could have learned when they were six too. They could have been spared the pain and shame.
We need the science of reading instruction generously and non-judgmentally in the hands of all parents, teachers, learning assistants, and support workers. We are now living a new time in the story of the literacy of our nation. It’s a turning-point time.
There’s nothing to fear here. The science of reading instruction is endlessly fascinating and entirely thrilling. It doesn’t diminish our past knowledges. Like all good science, it leads us to better. The lifelong learner within us can be endlessly piqued with fabulous curiosity and amazement about how the pieces fit together so perfectly when we understand them. It’s amazing to know how to uncover exactly what is going wrong for a learner who is struggling with the skills of literacy. It’s wondrously rewarding for everyone to bag the mastery of literacy skills. And to know with complete and utter confidence when to move a learner to the next level and when you must stay the course and roll-out more practice. With confidence and joy.
The science of reading instruction is not hard to learn if one is intentional. There are a few key knowledge pillars. They are fantastically, endlessly interesting.
And this is what the people want. For their children. For their hurting economy. For their dignity.
The past month has seen a massive rise in the activity of community organisations calling for this. Old hands, AusSPELD, Learning Disabilities Australia and Five-From-Five, have collaborated and published a Reading Pledge. It calls for Ministers, and others with power, to pledge targeted intervention using the science of reading instruction for all learners falling below benchmark on NAPLAN. And new players have emerged. Think Forward Educators aims to bring free online lectures on the science of reading instruction. Action groups such as Code REaD, Dear Dyslexic and Tassie’s own Square Pegs Dyslexia Support & Advocacy are campaigning harder and louder. The Tasmanian community called for #100PercentLiteracy for Tasmania in its reflective consultations with Tassie’s Connect42; which is already bringing the science of reading instruction to its programs, and calling for this to expand.
This historic turning-point honours all that has been. We’ve learned from that past work. Now we move forward with knowledge and skills we’ve never before been in a position to mobilise.
The winds of this change are sweet and exciting. The river runs to expansive and fertile new landscapes. The pull to the ground gives sustainable, solid paths all can walk.
And if I may be permitted one more analogy and quote literacy and literary giant, Victor Hugo, “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
The time for science in literacy instruction has come.
Let’s embrace it.
By Rosalie Martin, Founder of Connect42, Criminologist, Speech Pathologist, Dialogue Facilitator. This piece was first published in The Mercury on 2nd September 2020.