I think I need to clarify some points I made earlier.
I think I was well on point to mention that literacy is not being taught well in Australian schools. Australian literacy standards are low and our success in international reading tests has been dismal. This has been widely reported in both mainstream press and professional publications now and in recent years. Part of the reason the Gonski Report was initiated was due to abysmal literacy levels in primary school children.
One of the studies undertaken to mark reading progress, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, listed Australia as being the lowest results of any English speaking country. According to recent NAPLAN results, a quarter of our children aged 9 cannot read to minimum standard. For a developed nation, that is appalling. NAPLAN is failing, pre-service teacher education in active literacy is almost non-existent. And this is probably due to the fact that the education standard of bachelor degrees in teaching in this country falls well behind that of other countries and this has been going on for a very long time, something that government has acknowledged but has been slow to address. It’s one thing to be a fantastic teacher, it’s another thing entirely to be a teacher with a quality education and a relevant skills set. And in saying this I am not finding fault with the teachers themselves here. Funding is a critical issue. There’s just not enough focus on literacy in the present curriculum.
So yes, I do believe it was pertinent to mention that literacy is not taught well at all in Australian schools because it’s not and this generalisation is supported by collated statistics and concentrated studies.
On the other point regarding sight words. The utilisation of sight words as a reading strategy is not a roundly supported avenue to literacy and this is also well documented. Sight words are not just words that are memorised because they can’t be sounded. It is not a strategy carried out because words cannot be decoded. The sight word strategy espouses the focus on the child recognising a whole word as opposed to breaking it down to singular sounds within the word. It defies logic to get a child to memorise a whole word when they’ve barely scratched the alphabet. This is why kids forget. This is why mothers fret. The mechanics of language must be taught first.
Kindies, such as the one my kids attend, use this as a primary strategy for reading. And what I’m saying is that it doesn’t work. Active reading involves both sight and sound making phonics an integral part of the learning process. But as one reader has mentioned, it grew out of favour with a few but thankfully not all. Need I mention it remains the mainstay in other countries that are well ahead of us? The responses in this thread to this point illustrate that more attention is needed as to what constitutes the construct of literacy as it is something that is too often passed over for too long and we, as a nation, are paying for it now with a whopping third of Australian adults not being literate. By us understanding together and supporting each other in that knowledge, we equip our little ones with a skill that will carve the type of life they want.
So that is why I said what I said. And in saying so I don't want to deviate from the topic of this thread and engage in pedagogical argument but to support the mum who found herself mystified, seeking answers and being spurned by someone who didn't understand it either.