Letters to the Editor

Sara Johnson: Comprehension the key to helping struggling readers

Regarding the Nov. 4 Point of View “ In UNC scandal, the unasked why”: Mary Carey does not need the UNC scandal to show we are failing our African-American students. She’s right; we are.

She uses data to show our African-American boys and girls are reading below grade level. But her solution – incorporating the Orton-Gillingham system in our schools – is not right. That method is great for people who need it: those who can’t decode words on a page, struggle to “sound out words” and labor word by word. I’ve used a similar system, Wilson Reading Program, with great results. The thing is, most of our kids can read.

I was a middle school reading specialist for 13 years. My mostly African-American students could read just fine. Really. They just couldn’t understand what they read. Therein lies the problem: comprehension.

We were rolling out the Common Core my last year in the public schools. (I now teach Developmental Reading at Durham Tech.) I believed the Common Core, properly implemented, would have helped our African-American students develop crucial, critical-thinking skills. It asks students from a young age to cite evidence from the text to support answers and ask how it “connects to our own lives.” It fosters close analysis.

Common Core along with preschool so no student starts kindergarten behind are pathways to UNC-CH admission. And perhaps to study science, not basketball.

Sara Johnson

Chapel Hill