Historical Approaches to Reading

HIEROGLYPHICS or PICTOGRAPHS – symbols that represent whole ideas or concepts
ALPHABETIC Code – each letter represents a sound

Late 1700s

  • Horace Mann promoted “no drill”
  • Sight-word (whole word) instruction
  • Teach MEANING over word decoding


  • McGuffey Readers – primarily sight-word


  • Rudolph Flesch asked Why Johnny Can’t Read – he recommended return to PHONICS at a time when “Dick and Jane” were in use.
  • His book promoted a split in philosophy between whole-language and phonics teachers.


  • The National Reading Panel reports a combination of phonics, word sounds and oral reading is the most effective way to teach reading.
  • Many schools are still using “whole language.”
  • We see massive documented reading failure in America’s children.
  • Scientific research shows that direct, systematic phonics is the best foundation for beginning to read.