Literacies Circle: Equity Versus Equality

Proponents of the dyslexia bill and the oft-called “science” of reading have explained to me that by requiring explicit, systematic, and structured literacy instruction (“literacy,” in this case, meaning teaching of phonemic awareness, rapid automized naming, letter-sound correspondence, single word reading, nonsense-word reading, and oral reading fluency),

we would ensure equity in our schools.

In that such instruction should not be just for those with economic means to afford expensive tutoring outside of schools, but be required for all early elementary children (K-3) in addition to children with reading/writing difficulties at any grade.   

This makes sense until one finds out exactly what “structured literacy instruction” really is. 

The problem here is the word equity. There is very little equity within many of the commercially-published reading programs touted by the “science” of reading. If one uses only a hammer, everything will look like a nail.

Equality would ensure that all children receive the same program, the same instruction.

Equity would ensure that all children learn to read or write.

In restorative literacies, we consider not only the importance of phonics instruction, but also that literacies are quite complex and personal to each of us. We ask ourselves:

How can your one child learn to read? To write? And to grow?

What about a child who does not hear? Or see?

What about a child who is a hyperlexic reader, who might be able to read college level words per se, but not fully comprehend?

What about children who arrived to kindergarten or first grade with little experience in the world of books?

What about a child who translanguages to make meaning? Or sees that accents are different than what is taught during phonics instruction? And doesn’t receive positive acknowledgement for navigating multilingualism?

What about a child who loves to read at home, but refuses to read at school?

What about a child who is so turned off by worksheets and spelling tests? Or gets fidgety during drills?

What about a child who has performance anxiety when being tested on challenging tasks that is a subset of reading, like nonsense word reading or oral reading fluency? Most often administered by a stranger?

What about the nature of the tests? How is it that a child can be in the 5th percentile of one test and in the 94th percentile of another?

What about the child who was not well on the day of the testing? Or figured out the algorithm on computer tests? Or simply didn’t care about the results of testing? Or was overwhelmingly anxious?

What about the children who experienced disruption, loss, and trauma during the pandemic?

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