You’ve heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While we can debate the grammatical correctness of this saying another time, its meaning is easily applied to today’s reading instruction methods.

Often, programs focus on “fixing” specific issues children encounter when learning to read instead of focusing on proven, consistent methods. In a New York Times op-ed titled “We Know How to Teach Kids to Read,” author and linguistics professor John McWhorter discussed the issues with fad teaching methods and the value of proven, phonics-based reading instruction.

In the article, McWhorter begins by noting that spelling in the English language is anything but consistent. When words like no, know, and gnome are all pronounced similarly, it’s no wonder children sometimes struggle when learning to read. However, using phonics-based, explicit reading instruction gives children the tools they need to decipher inconsistencies and make progress in their literacy journey.

McWhorter highlighted the key findings of a study conducted in the 1960s, called “Project Follow Through.” In the study, education scholar Siegfried Engelmann implemented the phonics-based Direct Instruction (DI) program in 10 sites nationwide that taught 75,000 children using phonics-based DI. The study saw overwhelming success with many four-year-olds reading at an eight-year-old reading level. Importantly, the study also found that DI worked for ALL students, regardless of race or background.

After using a DI learning program, many four-year-olds were able to read at an eight-year-old reading level.

So why aren’t schools using phonics-based Direct Instruction today? McWhorter notes, “There is a persistent disconnect between the world of reading science and the world of people teaching children how to read.” Today, only 15 percent of elementary school educators receive instruction on how to teach reading. This leaves a gap in resources for educators and allows unproven methodologies to gain a footing in classrooms. Fortunately, there has been a push in recent years to go back to phonics-based reading instruction (see our Science of Reading blog post).

For parents who want to ensure their children learn to read using this proven program, Funnix is a great solution. The Funnix sequence is built on Siegfried Engelmann’s Direct Instruction, and is independently research-validated with studies using real children. This means your child will learn to read using the proven strategies that saw significant success from 1960 to 2023. DI worked then, and it still works today, allowing all students to become proficient readers.