The education establishment may sneer at the techniques Johnson uses, but they are part of a small-scale miracle: Ginter Park, despite an unpromising location and a high-poverty-level student body, now ranks in the top third of more than 1,100 public elementary schools in the state of Virginia, holding its own against schools in the ultra-affluent, highly educated suburban counties of northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Until only five years ago, Ginter Park, located in a once-upscale trolley-car suburb that has seen better days, was near the bottom of the state's academic barrel, the second-worst-performing elementary school in the Richmond Public Schools district--which was itself the second-worst-performing school district in the state.
It's an old story, isn't it? Even when confronted with proof, typical educators will still claim their methods are superior in ways that cannot be measured. Can 'creativity' or 'self-esteem' mean anything when children can't read?
I am a huge phonics proponent. I have Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do about It and both of my kids went to Montessori school. Montessori schools teach 4 year-olds the basic letter sounds (starting with short vowels) and when they are comfortable reading the beginning Bob Books Set 1-Beginning Readers, they move on to consonant blends and then digraphs.
By the time my daughter was out of first grade, she could read with fluency. My kindergartener can read most three to four letter words and is working on digraphs.
We've also used the website starfall.com for a change of pace. The films are meaningless, but the first few books seem to go in a decent order.