The Real Reading Debate and How We Fail to Teach Reading

From A Critical Space – Writing by P.L. Thomas

Sometimes cliches hit the nail on the head: It’s deja vu all over again.

Sometimes hackneyed metaphors paint the best picture: When you find yourself in a hole, keep digging.

And that brings us to the “science of reading” version of the Reading War.

Here, I want to address the often misunderstood real reading debate as well as outline how there has been a historical failure in teaching reading that continues today.

First, let’s clarify some facts about reading.

For over a century, measurable reading achievement (test scores) has been mostly correlated with socio-economic factors (the students home, community, and school) and not significantly correlated with how students are being taught to read.

In that same time period, there has never been a moment when the U.S. hasn’t declared “reading crisis.” And as a result of this myopic view of reading achievement, the U.S. has a recurring Reading War; some notable moments include the 1940s, the 1950s-1960s, and the 1990s (see especially McQuillan).

Throughout the history of reading instruction, phonics instruction has always been a key component of how students are taught to read in school. The Urban Legend that in some eras (such as the 1990s) and that some philosophies/theories of literacy (whole language, balanced literacy) have rejected completely phonics instruction has been compelling to the media and the public, but it is factually false.

Read more here.

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