A 180-degree shift: New York plans on implementing phonics into English studies


Shobini Iyer

New York will be switching up their public school reading program to a phonics-based system in hopes of improving reading comprehension for younger students

Libby Kamp, Sports Editor

Learning how to read is a vital skill that is taught at a young age for most people. After children start speaking around 12 to 18 months, they begin to read from ages six to eight. Reading not only serves as an important measure of the first years of life, it has also become a test towards the determination of high school and college placement classes. 

Currently, children are taught to read from using context clues in order to guess words; however, this system is leaving many to question the priorities of the American education system.

Not including minority students, a whopping 51 percent of children can’t read and half the students in grades 3-8 perform poorly on reading tests. This is an immense problem considering the ACT and SAT both test over reading. 

Senior Sophia Ramaraju, who completed the AP Literature test, feels that it is important to have a strong background in reading to be successful. “I don’t think people fully understand the importance of having a good background in English. Learning a language that surrounds everyone daily and being able to read, write and speak well is a contributing factor to success in secondary education,” said Ramaraju. 

Instead of turning reading into a guessing game, public schools in New York plan to change to a phonics system. This system is programmed to help students decode letters in order to process and read. Instead of relying on memory or an educated guess, students base their reading off of previous facts and knowledge. 

Secondary level reading specialist, Kelby LaBarge, shared her excitement about giving students a better English background from the start. “I do see a phonics-based system as being beneficial in the beginning whereas a picture-based development of language could be a little more subjective,” said LaBarge.

Other states have also considered implementing this into their own educational system. California has been slowly achieving this method, but due to teacher strikes and recovering from the pandemic, adding a new way of teaching English is not a top priority. 

“There is obviously a problem with reading in America, but all we are doing is staring at the problem without fixing it. I think using the phonic-system is a great idea considering that what we are doing now isn’t working well,” said Ramaraju.

Reading is an ability that does not come naturally to children; it must be taught and trained. Having to guess a word given 26 options should not be implemented into the educational system that is currently in place. Over 15,000 syllables and the growing number of words is unjustifiable to expect children to learn. Adding in a phonics based system will eventually cause a shift in English learning and decrease the number of illiterate children.