Official Review Reveals That Early Reading Programs Don’t Meet Standards

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Schools all over the country are placing new emphasis on children being able to read by third grade, with some states even proposing that all children read at sufficient levels by third grade or risk being held back. These new guidelines have parents more worried than ever about their children’s early reading education. Unfortunately, a new review of Early Reading programs designed for kindergarten through second grade reveals that none of them are adequate for young children.

EdReports, the leading nonprofit for comprehensive reviews of educational materials, did their first ever review of Early Reading programs. Specific core foundational skills should be addressed in the materials, such as letter identification, basic reading concepts (like the fact that English writing runs left to right), phonics, and the ability to identify parts of spoken language. They should also offer ample opportunities for students to practice what they’ve learned.

Rather than providing a full literacy curriculum, each of the five programs under review was designed to supplement a traditional language arts program and fill in any gaps. Unfortunately, all of them came up short in meeting the Common Core State Standards they were measured against. The widely used Fountas & Pinnell Phonics, Study and Word Study System by Heinemann; Puzzle Piece Phonics by Catawba Press; and Fundations by Wilson Language Training each met some of the standards, while Express Readers and Jolly Phonics, by Jolly Learning, didn’t meet any.

“None of these programs in and of themselves would be sufficient to get all of the foundational skills for kids,” reported Eric Hirsch, the executive director of EdReports.

Manufacturers of all of the programs were given a chance to respond to the review results and several did provide comment. Barbara Wilson, co-founder and president of Wilson Language Training, and Chris Jolly, program creator of Jolly Phonics, contested the results saying that reviewers overlooked aspects of their programs that may have helped them score higher. Other programs, like Express Readers, took the feedback to heart. They are removing their program from the shelves in order to reevaluate, make improvements and re-release in 2020.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -