– By Shane Davis, Founder and CEO of LiteracyPlanet


Well… maybe they are… and… maybe they aren’t, I’m certainly not qualified to comment either way. What’s interesting, though, is how regularly the debate over children’s reading instruction repeats itself. 

By now you will be well acquainted with the terms used to describe approaches to reading instruction, such as “balanced literacy”, “whole language”, “science of reading”,  “structured literacy”, and “systematic phonics”. If you’re not, or would like to take a deeper dive into the back story, this is a great place to start: A Brief History of ‘The Reading Wars’ by Brian Cambourne, 2021. (Spoiler alert – you’re about to travel way, way, way back; this is far from being a 21st century dilemma.)

But we’re not here to dwell on the arguments, the sciences, or the theories that have captured the headlines for decades. Nor those calling out declining reading rates, congested curriculums, or lack of literacy training, even though they are quite right to be doing so in my humble opinion.

We’re here to recognise the efforts of those who have persisted year-after-year to do the best job they can, with the tools they’ve been given, throughout this entire saga. Shane Davis, Founder & CEO, LiteracyPlanet

My introduction to the conflicted world of reading instruction began in 2000, when an education professional suggested the need for phonics software that could be used in the classroom or at home without expert supervision. In other words, a resource for teachers and parents who needed some help teaching their kids to read. I know we could go down a rabbit hole at this point, but we won’t. 

From that day to this the journey for me, as someone who is not an educator, has been one of inspiration as I’ve learned more about the challenges these frontline teachers have faced. And more so than that, it’s the stories they’ve shared of their successes where, in many cases, there had been little hope for those kids who really struggled to learn to read. These teachers took it upon themselves to make a difference utilising their own time and, more often than not, their own money to bridge whatever gaps prevented these children from becoming literate. And this still continues in our classrooms today.

There are many ways to support teachers in their quest to lift literacy rates, such as with resources and training, however, I feel the best place to start is with understanding and genuine appreciation for the everyday effort that has always been there, and the passionate care within which it is delivered.

I accept there are exceptions where children do ‘fall between the cracks’ and it’s all too easy to point the finger of blame. Before going there though, it’s on us as parents to ensure we have done our part, even if simply taking the time to read to our young ones long before their first day of school. Of course, there are many other things we can do to give our kids the head start that will help to reduce the load on our teachers, and free them up so their full attention goes to where it’s most needed. 

It goes without saying that learning to read and to write, to be able to comprehend and to be understood, and to be functionally literate, is a complex and time consuming process that starts at a young age.

Thank you to the teachers who are committed to making this happen, despite the obstacles!