School Phonics meets the "Reading First" criteria established by the U.S. Department of Education for a scientifically-based reading program. It offers instruction in all of the essential areas of reading-phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension-identified in The National Reading Panel's 2000 report.
School Phonics was in development as the panel released its results. Their recommendations are essentially a blueprint for our methodology.
The panel found that the most successful reading programs are those that utilize systematic and explicit phonics instruction. Not only was systematic and explicit phonics found to be beneficial for all children but it was especially effective for children "at risk" for reading failure.
Research also reveals that the leading cause of reading failure most commonly occurs at the level of the single word. The inability to read words has lasting effects. Studies show that 74% of children who are poor readers in second grade will remain impaired readers through twelfth grade.
School Phonics addresses both of these issues. On completing the systematic and explicit phonics instruction in the program, a child will be able to read any word in the language that is phonetically regular; that is, more than 85% of the English language. When School Phonics is used in first grade it will prevent reading failure from occurring and, when used as an intervention program with older children, it will give them the word recognition skills necessary to becoming successful readers.
While School Phonics is a new program, the scholarship that underlies its approach and methods has been used successfully to teach reading and language skills for over six decades. The basic approach to teaching beginning reading in School Phonics is systematic and explicit phonics and the primary source of its method is the Association Method; so called because it associates the essential processes of learning: attention, retention and recall.
The creator of the Association Method was Professor Mildred McGinnis, who for over 40 years worked with language-impaired children at the Central Institute for the Deaf at Washington University in St. Louis.
In time, she came to identify the articulation of a single phoneme as the starting point of her instruction. She also found the most effective means of teaching phonemes centered around using kinesthetic, auditory, visual and tactile procedures. Over a span of more than 20 years she refined her techniques and, in 1962, published her theory and method in Aphasic Children: Identification and Education by the Association Method (republished in 1988). Using the Northampton System of phonetic classification, developed by Carolyn Yale, McGinnis' theory focuses on the teaching of phonemes and their most common spellings to decode the more than 85% of words in the English language that are phonetically regular.
The Association Method has been used effectively for over 50 years to teach reading, speech and writing in this country and abroad. It is used in clinical environments as well as in regular classroom settings. Research and training in the Association Method is carried on at the DuBard School for Language Disorders at the University of Southern Mississippi.
It is well worth noting that when Professor McGinnis developed the Association Method there was little known about language theory. Her identification of the single phoneme as the basis for beginning instruction was quite remarkable. Neuroscience research on the brain during the process of reading is only now confirming the validity of her approach.