‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’ Urges Return To Phonics Method

1955

Rudolf Flesch’s “Why Johnny Can’t Read” becomes a national bestseller that shakes the educational community. The book argues that the see-and-say method (or whole language method)of teaching reading, popular in the 1950s, is hurting students. Flesch argues for a return to phonics, which teaches the association of sounds with letter identification and which emphasizes sounding out unfamiliar words. The debate over the best way to teach reading – phonics, whole language theory, or modifications of each – continues today.