Why Balanced Literacy Is the Best Approach to Reading

A teacher putting into practice why balanced literacy is the best approach to reading with a young female student in the classroom.

How teachers instruct their students is just as important as what they teach. Balanced literacy allows teachers to use a variety of teaching methods in their instruction.

No doubt, teaching is a challenging job. Teachers are responsible for raising competent and literate children.


Why Balanced Literacy Is the Best Approach to Reading 

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However, educators, administrators, and parents must balance the old methods of teaching and the information gained from experience and research. 

Using balanced literacy includes various techniques and will enable students to move from easy to more challenging material. 


What is the Basic Approach to Literacy? 

Generally, when teaching literacy, the basic approach is an either phonics-based or whole language. These approaches reflect two very different philosophies. Therefore, they require them to learn very different skills. 


Whole Language

In the whole language classroom, children read simple and repetitive text. Usually, the children are already familiar with the text, which makes it much easier to understand. 

The whole language approach emphasizes comprehension rather than reading accuracy. The primary goal is for children to foster a love of reading and become proficient by reading more. 


In a phonics classroom, the students learn rules for reading. They learn words and parts of words in isolation. The primary goal is for children to read words accurately. 


The Literacy Debate

Interestingly, there has been much debate about how to create literate children. Teachers often wonder which approach is the best to teach children to read. 

Both sides have their cons. Some people believe that the look-say approach with whole language reading is not suitable for teaching children to read. However, teachers did not like all the worksheets that often come along with the phonics approach. 

Researchers have been looking for a balanced approach to end the debate that has been going on for decades. 


A Balanced Literacy Approach 

Today many teachers would not consider themselves an advocate for either approach. Most importantly, no teacher will find one perfect way to teach reading. 

Instead, they tend to teach a balanced literacy approach in their reading instruction. A balance between the methods that work is necessary and desirable.  

What to Keep in Mind With a Balanced Literacy Approach

Interestingly, an issue of creating a balanced literacy approach is the uncertainty of what that means. The problem is that most people perceive a “balanced” approach in different ways.

For some, this means taking parts of the phonics method and parts of the whole language method. However, what teachers or districts choose to use is entirely up to them. 

Additional Resources for Teaching Reading

The balanced literacy approach seems to be the best approach to reading. But with any method, the teacher must see what works best for their group of students. 

Unfortunately, one approach will not work for every student. So the concept must be for teachers to find a balance between the approaches and what their students need. 

Have you used a balanced literacy approach in your classroom? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below. 

Here are a few other posts that may give you more ideas for helping your students:



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A teacher putting into practice why balanced literacy is the best approach to reading with a young female student in the classroom.
Phonics vs Whole Language has been the debate for many years. Read why a balanced literacy Is the best approach to reading.

Laura Young, M.Ed.

Laura Young, M.Ed.

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