Why elementary teachers might be inadequately prepared to teach reading

J Learn Disabil. 2009 Sep-Oct;42(5):392-402. doi: 10.1177/0022219409338736. Epub 2009 Jun 19.


Several national reports have suggested the usefulness of systematic, explicit, synthetic phonics instruction based on English word structure along with wide reading of quality literature for supporting development in early reading instruction. Other studies have indicated, however, that many in-service teachers are not knowledgeable in the basic concepts of the English language. They may be well versed in children's literature but not know how to address the basic building blocks of language and reading. The authors hypothesized that one of the reasons for this situation is that many instructors responsible for training future elementary teachers are not familiar with the concepts of the linguistic features of English language. This hypothesis was tested by administering a survey of language concepts to 78 instructors. The results showed that even though teacher educators were familiar with syllabic knowledge, they performed poorly on concepts relating to morphemes and phonemes. In a second study, 40 instructors were interviewed about best practices in teaching components and subskills of reading. Eighty percent of instructors defined phonological awareness as letter-sound correspondence. They also did not mention synthetic phonics as a desirable method to use for beginning reading instruction, particularly for students at risk for reading difficulties. In conclusion, providing professional development experiences related to language concepts to instructors could provide them the necessary knowledge of language concepts related to early literacy instruction, which they could then integrate into their preservice reading courses.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Curriculum / standards
  • Data Collection
  • Education
  • Education, Professional / standards
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Linguistics / education*
  • Phonetics
  • Professional Competence / standards*
  • Reading*
  • Reference Standards
  • Teaching / standards*
  • United States