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Back to July Ed Reporter
Education Reporter
NUMBER 186 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JULY 2001

Phonics Sparked Harvard Grads' Success
ALBUQUERQUE, NM - When 22-year-old Elena Chavez graduated from Harvard University on June 7, she was the last of five children in her family to do so. Three of her four older siblings have gone on to earn post-graduate degrees from Stanford, and one holds a Ph.D.

The Chavez family isn't wealthy. Elena's mother, Rose, is the daughter of poor Spanish and Mexican immigrants. Her father, Ray, is a draftsman. How did these parents manage to send five children to Harvard? In their own words, it was a combination of hard work, personal sacrifice and teaching their children to read with phonics before they went to kindergarten. "If you know how to read when you go to school, you never fall behind," Ray Chavez told the Associated Press (5-27-01).

Rose quit her secretarial job and took in typing so that she could stay at home and supplement her children's education. She taught them to read using phonics records. Later, she drilled them in history, science and other subjects with a program called "Cycle Teacher." There was very little television viewing.

Advocates of traditional education believe that the achievements of the Chavez children, though undoubtedly helped by God-given talent and extraordinary parental efforts, nonetheless supports their long-held belief that phonics and the memorization of basic facts can successfully educate all children, regardless of economic status or ethnicity.


 
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