Sunday, January 17, 2010

10 Myths of Reading Instruction from sedl.org website

Ten Myths of Reading Instruction
Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • (800) 476-6861
211 E. 7th Street • Austin, Texas 78701www.sedl.org
Reading Instruction that Works,concluded with a discussion of what he considered to be ÒTen Dumb and Dangerous Claims about Reading Instruction.Ó All of the points he made were quite compelling, but one wonders if these are his "top ten" picks
for the most dangerous myths about reading instruction.
Some might at least argue that the list shouldbe re-ordered (placing some higher on the list than Pressley did), and certainly some
would argue that there are a few myths that
should have made the cut that he never mentioned. Curious readers are directed to his book to review his "top ten" list (the bookis well written and highly informative), buthere we will examine a second perspective
of the most damaging myths and misconceptions about reading instruction.Let us begin with a myth that Pressley did not mention, but which is arguably the most
pernicious myth currently influencing reading instruction:
Myth #1 Ð Learning to read is a natural
process
It has long been argued that learning to read,
like learning to understand spoken language,
is a natural phenomenon. It has often been
suggested that children will learn to read if
they are simply immersed in a literacy-rich
environment and allowed to develop literacy
skills in their own way. This belief that
learning to read is a natural process that
comes from rich text experiences issurprisingly prevalent in education despite the fact that learning to read is about as natural as learning to juggle blindfolded while
riding a unicycle backwards. Simply put,learning to read is not only unnatural, it is justabout the most unnatural thing humans do.At the outset of this discussion, it should be made clear that there is a difference between
learning to read text and learning to understand a spoken language. Learning to understand speech is indeed a natural process; starting before birth, children tune in
to spoken language in their environment, andas soon as they are able, they actively seek
• www.sedl.org Page 2
out and begin to incorporate a language. If the linguistic environment is not rich enough
or if it is confusing, the innate drive to find a language is so strong that, if necessary,children will create a language of their own(examples of this include twin languages andpidgin languages). There is no doubt that given the opportunity, children will naturallydevelop rudimentary language comprehension skills with little structured or formal guidance. Reading acquisition, by contrast, is not at all natural. It is useful to remind ourselves that,while the ability to understand speech evolved over many, many thousands ofyears, reading and writing were invented byman (about 7 different times and in different cultures), and have only been around for afew thousand years. In fact, it has really only been within the past few generations thatsome cultures have made any serious attempt to make literacy universal amongtheir citizens. Reading and writing simplyhave not existed long enough to be
described as a "natural" phenomenon.
Clearly, if reading was natural, everybody
would be doing it, and we would not have to
worry so much about dealing with a "literacy
crisis" or a "literacy gap." According to the
National Institute for Literacy and the Center
for Education Statistics, over 40 million
adults in this country alone are functionally
illiterate, and despite our best educational
efforts, approximately 40% of our 4th graders
lack even the most basic reading skills.
These staggering numbers provide evidence
that reading is a skill that is quite unnatural
and very difficult to learn. Clearly, if we are
ever to come close to teaching all children to
read, it will require the most focused and artful instruction from the most knowledgeable and skilled teachers. Merely
immersing a child in a literature-rich
environment is not at all sufficient to
guarantee the development of substantial literacy skills.
Over time, the gap between
children who have well developed literacy skills and those who do not gets wider and wider. www.sedl.org Page 3
Myth #2 Ð Children will eventually learn to
read if given enough time
This is arguably the second most pernicious
myth, and it is closely related to the first.
Many who claim that reading is natural also
claim that children need to be given time to
develop their reading skills at their own pace.
This is a double-edged
sword because while it
is true that children
should be taught to
read in
developmentally
appropriate ways, and
that we should always
address instruction to each child's zone of
proximal development, we should not simply
wait for children to develop reading skills in
their own time. A child who is not developing
reading skills along with his or her peers is a
reason for great concern.
Research has revealed an extremely
dangerous phenomenon that has been
dubbed the "Matthew Effect." The term
comes from the line in the Bible that
essentially says that the rich get richer and
the poor get poorer. That certainly describes
what happens as children enter school and
begin learning literacy skills. Over time, the
gap between children who have well
developed literacy skills and those who do
not gets wider and wider. At the early
grades, the "literacy gap" is
relatively easy to cross,
and with diagnostic,
focused instruction,
effective teachers can
help children with poor
literacy skills to become
children with rich literacy
skills. However, if literacy instruction needs
are not met early, then the gap widens Ð the
rich get richer, and the poor get poorer Ð until
the gap gets so wide that bridging it requires
extensive, intensive, expensive and
frustrating remedial instruction. The gap
reaches this nearly insurmountable point
very early Ð research has shown that if a
child is not reading grade-appropriate
materials by the time he or she is in the
fourth grade, the odds of that child ever
developing good reading skills are very slim.
It is still possible, but it is much more difficult,
and the child's own motivation becomes the
biggest obstacle to success.
Myth #3 Ð Reading programs are
"successful"
It is extremely common for schools to buy a
reading program to address their reading
instruction needs, and trust that the program
will solve their school's literacy issues.
Typically these programs require a great deal
of commitment from the school, both in terms
of time and money.
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 4
However, while reading programs can be
"useful," no reading program has ever been
shown to be truly "successful" -- not with all
children, all teachers, and all cultures. And
no reading program has been shown to
accelerate all children to advanced levels of
performance. There have been a few
programs that have been shown to improve
overall reading scores significantly
(especially in low-performing schools), but
that improvement is still a long way from
what anybody should describe as "success."
If 60% of the students in a school are
performing unacceptably on the benchmark
reading assessments, moving that number to
40% is an improvement, but it is still
unsatisfactory.
People often ask if there are reading
programs that research has shown to be
effective, and the answer is that there is no
reading program that, by itself, will even
come close to ensuring high levels of reading
success for all children. There are a few
programs that, if properly implemented, could
help a school to move in the right direction,
but nothing could ever take the place of a
knowledgeable and talented teacher.
Research has repeatedly indicated that the
single most important variable in any reading
program is the knowledge and skill of the
teacher implementing the program, so why
do we persist in trying to develop "teacherproof"
programs? Some would argue that it
is our over-dependence on such reading
programs that is preventing us from
cultivating more knowledgeable and effective
teachers. After all, if you want somebody to
become a chef, you can't just hand that
person a cookbook and tell him or her to
follow a recipe.
The right answer is the hard answer Ð there
are no quick fixes. To achieve success for all
children, teachers need to become extremely
sophisticated and diagnostic in their
approach to reading instruction. Every child
is different, and each child must be treated
differently. A program can not be sensitive to
the varied and rapidly evolving learning
needs of individual children, but a diagnostic,
knowledgeable teacher certainly can.
Myth #4 Ð We used to do a better job of
teaching children to read
As the song goes, "The good old days
weren't always so good." We have, in fact,
never done a better job of teaching children
to read than we do today. The bad news is,
we've never really done a worse job either.
We are basically just as successful today as
we have always been (which is to say, not
very successful).
Nothing illustrates this better than the
National Assessment of Educational
Progress (the NAEP). This assessment has
been given to children across the country
aged 9, 13, and 17 since 1970. Student
performance at those three age levels has
not changed substantially in over 30 years --
consistently, depending on the age tested,
between 24 and 39 percent of students have
scored in the "below basic" category, and
between 3 and 7 percent have scored in the
"advanced" category. Other investigations
have found that literacy rates have not really
changed in this country since World War II,
and some studies suggest that literacy rates
were actually worse before the war.
While the literacy rates really have not
changed substantially in recent history, the
demand and need for literacy has increased
To achieve success for all
children, teachers need to

become extremely sophisticated
and diagnostic in their approach
to reading instruction.
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 5
markedly. Literacy is essentially
a prerequisite for success now,
and in the future, the ability to
read will be an increasingly
indispensable skill. As Marilyn
Jager Adams states, "It is not
just that the teaching of reading
is more important than ever
before, but that it must be taught better and
more broadly than ever before. We are
witnessing an explosion in both information
and technology. Alonglside, the social and
economic values of reading and writing are
multiplying in both number and importance
as never before."
We clearly do not need to get back to the old
ways of teaching children to read Ð the old
ways were really no better than (and some
would argue, "no different than") the current
ways. Relatively recent research has given
us great insights into why some children
have difficulty learning to read, and the next
frontier in reading education is to help
teachers understand and apply that research
information.
Myth #5 Ð Skilled reading involves using
syntactic and semantic cues to "guess"
words, and good readers make many
"mistakes" as they read authentic text
Research indicates that both of these claims
are quite wrong, but both are surprisingly
pervasive in reading instruction. The idea
that good readers use context cues to guess
words in running text comes from a method
of assessment developed by Ken Goodman
that he called "miscue analysis" (which has
given rise to the popular "running records"
assessments). For his dissertation,
Goodman examined the types of mistakes
that young readers make, and drew
inferences about the strategies they employ
as they read. He noticed that the children in
his studies very often made errors as they
read, but many of these errors did not
change the meaning of the text (e.g.
misreading "rabbit" as "bunny"). He
surmised that the reason must be that good
readers depend on context to predict
upcoming words in passages of text. He
further suggested that for good readers,
these context cues are so important that the
reader only needs to occasionally "sample"
from the text (i.e. look at the words on the
page) to confirm the predictions. Children
who struggle to sound out words, Goodman
says, are over-depending on the letter / word
cues, and need to learn to pay more
attention to the semantic and syntactic cues.
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 6
Goodman's model, that eventually gave rise
to the "Three Cueing Systems" model of
word recognition, is very influential in reading
instruction, but unfortunately, it has never
been supported by research evidence.
In fact, repeated studies have shown that
only poor readers depend upon context to try
to "guess" words in text Ð good readers
depend heavily upon the visual information
contained in the words themselves (i.e. the
letter / word cues) to quickly and
automatically identify the word. Keith
Stanovich has been especially critical of the
three cueing systems model because the
predictions made by the model are exactly
the opposite of what has been observed in
research studies.
Philip Gough and I addressed the second
claim and showed that, in fact, good readers
almost never make any mistakes at all when
they read, which means the notion of
conducting a "miscue analysis" is somewhat
suspect Ð how can you perform a miscue
analysis when there are typically no
miscues? We had over 400 college students
read a passage of text from Ken Goodman's
book Phonics Phacts, and showed that the
modal number of mistakes made by these
students was zero Ð almost all of the
students read the passage flawlessly. To
suggest that good readers are correctly
guessing the words in the passage with onehundred
percent accuracy stretched the
boundaries of credulity.
However, to be sure, we examined how
accurate people would be if they were forced
to use semantics and context as their only
cues. We concealed the passage of text and
asked our college students to guess each of
the words in the passage one at a time; after
each guess, the correct word was revealed,
and students were asked to guess the next
word. This process was repeated for every
word in the passage, so the students always
knew the words leading up to the unknown
word. We found that, given unlimited time to
ponder, students were able to correctly
guess one out of ten content words in the
passage. That's a ninety percent failure rate,
as opposed to the zero percent failure rate
seen in skilled readers who were not forced
to make guesses based on context.
It is clear that good readers depend very
heavily upon the visual information contained
in the word for word identification (what is
commonly called the graphemic information
or orthographic information). The semantic
and syntactic information are critical for
comprehension of passages of text, but they
do not play an important role in decoding or
identifying words. Good readers make
virtually no mistakes as they read because
they have developed extremely effective and
efficient word identification skills that do not
depend upon semantics/context or syntax.
For good readers, word identification is fast,
fluent, and automatic Ð it needs to be so that
the their attention can be fully focused on
using semantics and syntax to comprehend the text.
Myth #6 Ð Research can be used to support whatever your beliefs are Ð lots
of programs are "research based"
Unfortunately, it is true that a lot of people do
selectively search and sample the research
literature, citing only the research that seems
to support their pre-conceived notions. Often
research results are skewed or biased to
appear to be consistent with hypotheses
proposed. And unfortunately, there are many
people who are unwilling to reject a
All of us need to adopt a bit of
healthy skepticism, and we need
to demand that a substantial
research base be provided as
evidence to support claims
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 7
hypothesis or a theory even when research
evidence does not support that theory.
Adding to the problem of poor research is the
problem that the public is largely uninformed
about what the hallmarks of good research
are.
Many articles seem to be
"research" articles, but are
not. The article you are
reading right now, for
example, might be cited
as "research" by some,
but in fact this is not a
research article Ð this is an
article written by a researcher, and that is an
important distinction. This article, and others
that appear in journals like Phi Delta Kappan
and The Reading Teacher are typically
created as informative journalistic
documents. These articles are meant to be
analogous to newspaper articles, but are
often more like editorials and commentaries.
They stimulate thought, and focus attention
on interesting issues, but they are not in any
way "research" articles.
Real research is much more rigorous. Real
research requires peer review. Real
research is tested and scrutinized from many
angles by multiple, unrelated researchers.
There is documented
objectivity associated
with real research, and
where possible, there is
replication. And even
after all of that, a
"healthy skepticism" is
still adopted by the
research community. Researchers know that
one piece of research evidence is nothing to
get excited about. Several bits of evidence
might get some attention. But it is only when
there is substantial "convergent evidence"
from multiple sources supporting a theory
that the research community is willing to
embrace the theory.
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 8
It takes years to convince the research
community that a theory has merit, but it
takes no time at all to convince the public.
People outside of the research community
tend to pay attention to unexpected or
unusual findings. Cold fusion is an example
of the type of inappropriate attention the
public and media pays to unusual research
findings. There is a mountain of evidence
showing that cold fusion is not possible given
our current technology and understanding of
physics. But when one research team
circumvented the normal ÒchannelsÓ of peer
review and claimed that they had found a
solution for cold fusion, they were celebrated
in the media, and the public payed a great
deal of attention to their claims.
When there is a preponderance of evidence
supporting a theory, the research community
puts a great deal of faith in that theory, but
when there is one claim that refutes the
preponderance of evidence, the public tends
to pay inordinate attention to the exceptional
claim while ignoring the substantial evidence
that would refute that claim. A wall of
mundane consistency fades to the
background when one incongruent speck
appears.
It is true that new "research based" fads and
programs come and go, but that stems from
a misuse of the term "research based." All of
us need to adopt a bit of healthy skepticism,
and we need to demand that a substantial
research base be provided as evidence to
support claims. And we also need to learn to
pay more attention to the research evidence
and less attention to the messenger Ð the
credentials of a researcher are important, but
even researchers can editorialize and put
forth unfounded opinions. Just because a
well-known researcher said it, that doesn't
make it so.
In short, we should always remember the
researcher's credo: "Remarkable claims
require remarkable evidence."
Myth #7 Ð Phoneme awareness is a
consequence (not a cause) of reading
acquisition
The evidence showing the importance of
phoneme awareness to literacy acquisition is
overwhelming. Still, there are some that are
not convinced. Some claim that teaching
children to develop phoneme awareness is
not necessary or even beneficial. They
usually accept that children do develop
phoneme awareness as they learn to read,
but they claim that phoneme awareness is
nothing more than a byproduct of reading
acquisition that arises as a result of learning
to read Ð not the other way around. Further,
it is often argued that phoneme awareness
instruction is "inauthentic" and "unnatural,"
and is therefore inappropriate.
The research evidence, however, does not
support this view. First, it is quite clear that
phoneme awareness is a necessary prerequisite
for developing decoding skills in an
alphabetic writing system such as English.
Phoneme awareness in the early grades is
one of the best predictors of future reading
success. All successful readers have
phoneme awareness. People who do not
have phoneme awareness are always poor
readers, and poor readers almost never have
phoneme awareness (almost never Ð
phoneme awareness is necessary but not
sufficient for reading success). However, the
most compelling evidence for the importance
of phoneme awareness stems from the
research that has shown that when children
are taught to develop phoneme awareness,
they are more likely to develop good word
decoding skills, and they develop those skills
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 9
faster and earlier than children who are not
taught to be aware of phonemes in spoken
words.
Second, phoneme awareness instruction can
be very authentic and natural. Teachers can
use music, tongue twisters, poetry and
games to help children develop phoneme
awareness. Children actually enjoy playing
these games; they love to experiment with
language, and teachers should give them
every opportunity to explore speech.
Given the importance of finding
developmentally appropriate ways of helping
children to develop foundational reading
skills as early as possible (see the Matthew
Effect discussion in Myth #2), assessment of
phoneme awareness should begin early, and
games and lessons that help children to
develop an awareness of phonemes in
speech should be used to help those that
need it.
Myth #8 Ð Some people are just
genetically "dyslexic"
The belief in an underlying genetic cause for
dyslexia ignores the fact that reading and
writing simply have not been around long
enough to become part of our genetic
makeup (see the Naturalness
argument in Myth #1). It was long
argued that when a disparity existed
between a person's intelligence and
their reading skill, the person should
be described as a "dyslexic." The
term "dyslexic" eventually became a
catch-all term used to account for
people who failed to learn to read
despite apparent intellectual capacity
and environmental support.
Frankly, the term "dyslexia" is
basically meaningless. The term simply
means "difficulty with words," and anybody
who has not learned to read could be called
"dyslexic." There is nothing about that
taxonomy that addresses the underlying
reasons for the difficulty with words. We
know that people fail to learn to read for a
very wide variety of reasons, and
categorizing all non-readers under the
"dyslexia" umbrella belies the complexity of
reading disorders.
Clearly, some people have more difficulty
learning to read than others. In broad
strokes, the three reasons people have
difficulty developing basic reading skills are,
1. they have difficulty developing decoding
skills,
2. they have difficulty developing language
comprehension skills or,
3. both.
Difficulties developing decoding skills very
often arise from difficulties processing
sounds in speech (phonological processing
skills). Some people seem to have an easier
time than others mentally breaking spoken
words apart and tuning into the subparts of
spoken words (e.g. alliteration, rhyme, etc.).
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 10
To learn to decode words (at least in
alphabetic systems like English), it is
necessary to understand that the letters in
text represent the phonemes in speech. For
people who have difficulty hearing and
manipulating the phonemes in speech
(because of poor phonological processing
skills), it is unlikely that they will make the
connection between letters and phonemes.
It could be argued that there is a genetic
foundation for variations in phonological
processing skills -- some people do seem to
naturally tune in to speech sounds, and
others seem to have difficulty examining and
manipulating the phonemes in speech.
Furthermore, these abilities do have a
tendency to run in families. However, even if
there are genetic foundations for
phonological processing skills, we know that
it is quite easy to teach children to be aware
of the phonemes in speech regardless of
their genetic tendencies.
While some children have difficulty
developing decoding skills because of poor
phonological processing skills, other children
simply do not get
adequate instruction in
other necessary
knowledge domains that
are important for
developing good
decoding skills (concepts
about print, letter
knowledge, and
knowledge of the
alphabetic principle). Or,
they do not get ample
opportunities to practice
decoding real words, and
thus fail to develop
sufficient cipher
knowledge or lexical
knowledge about words. There is no genetic
factor for insufficient instruction Ð the deficit
is not intrinsic to the child; it is intrinsic to the
classroom and the system that failed to help
the child to develop these critical knowledge
domains.
Difficulty developing language
comprehension skills often stem from either
insufficient practice with language in general
or insufficient practice with a particular
language (children often have well developed
language comprehension skills in languages
other than English). To be good at
understanding a language, children need to
develop a rich vocabulary and appreciation
for semantics, and they need to combine that
with a wealth of background knowledge
about the world. They also need to have an
implicit understanding of the mechanics of
the language (syntax), and their ear needs to
be tuned to the phonology of the language so
they are less likely to confuse words that
sound similar (like "hair" and "here").
None of these areas could be described as
"genetic" factors that lead to reading
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 11
difficulty. They are environmental factors,
and good instruction can overcome them.
The unpleasant fact that we must come to
terms with is that the reason that so many
children are "dyslexic" has nothing to do with
the children; it has to do with the quality of
their education. They were simply never
taught to read.
Myth #9 Ð Short-term tutoring for
struggling readers can get them caught
up with their peers, and the gains will be
sustained
Pull-out programs for reading instruction are
extremely common in schools. Typically in
one of these programs, a highly trained
teacher will pull individual students out of the
classroom for short, intensive, one-on-one
instruction sessions. After a few weeks of
this intensive intervention, the students are
exited from the program, and
they resume normal classroom
activities. The prevalence of
these fairly expensive
programs reflects an
underlying belief that this sort
of intervention is effective, and
that the gains that children
experience in these programs
are sustained when they return
to the normal classroom.
In fact, it is evident that such
gains as are made by children
in these programs (and even
those gains are questionable)
are not sustained for very long
once they are exited from the
program. Studies of these pullout
tutoring programs have
shown that children who are
not thriving like their peers in
the classroom continue to fail to thrive when
they are placed back in that classroom full
time. This suggests that there is something
about the classroom environment that is not
supporting and scaffolding these children as
they learn to read.
Studies have shown that the best hope for
these children is to place them with a
"strong" reading teacher full time Ð a teacher
who has a sophisticated understanding of the
process of learning to read, a tendency to
use assessment data to inform individualized
instruction, and a talent for engaging
students in focused and interesting
instructional activities. For example,
Catherine Snow has been reporting research
findings that indicate that "at risk" students
who are placed with "strong" teachers for two
consecutive years are very likely to be
successful readers. Similarly, she has shown
that students who are not "at risk" are likely
to have difficulties learning to read if they are
placed with "weak" teachers for two
consecutive years.
Once again, we see that the right answer is
the hard answer (see Myth #3); the solution
for helping struggling
readers to become
successful readers is to
cultivate a population of
teachers who are very
knowledgeable about
how children learn to
read, and who are adept at applying their
understanding of reading acquisition to the
assessment and instruction of individual
children.
Perhaps instead of having our most highly
trained and knowledgeable reading teachers
pulling students out of class for individual
tutoring, a better use of their time would be to
make them responsible for providing ongoing,
job-imbedded professional
development and coaching for the other
teachers on staff so that all of the teachers
can develop expertise in reading theory and
reading instruction.
Myth #10 Ð If it is in the curriculum, then
the children will learn it, and a balanced
reading curriculum is ideal
This is only a half-myth. Clearly, if something
is not a part of the curriculum, then children
are very unlikely to learn it, but just because
a concept or skill is taught, there is no
guarantee that every child will learn it.
Standards are starting to shift from an
emphasis on what is taught to an emphasis
on what is learned, and curricula are starting
to make the same shift. However, it is still
quite common to divide a curriculum into
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 12
instructional minutes and to focus more on
what is taught than on what is learned. A
curriculum is too often confused with a recipe
Ð creating proficient readers is not as simple
as mixing ingredients in correct proportions.
Teaching a complicated skill such as reading
to a diverse group of
students requires a
great deal of flexibility
and creativity on the
part of the teacher.
As to whether or not a
curriculum should reflect a balanced reading
approach, the answer is again, "yes and no."
Unfortunately, the term "balanced reading" is
not very clearly defined. Most teachers
currently claim to employ a balanced
approach to their reading instruction
(according to the NAEP), but what a
"balanced approach" means to one teacher
may be very different from what a "balanced
approach" means to another. Some have
started substituting the term "eclectic" for
"balanced" to more aptly describe their
instructional strategies. The approach most
commonly used is to provide instruction
traditionally associated with both the Phonics
and the Whole Language philosophies, and
to add things like phoneme awareness that
were never traditionally associated with
either philosophy. Sometimes a balanced
reading approach involves using phonics
activities first, and then adding whole
language activities later. Sometimes a
balanced reading approach involves
supplementing authentic text with phonics
worksheets or decodable text. But rarely
does it mean the same thing for different
teachers.
According to data collected for the NAEP in
Reading, the prevalent instructional
philosophy shifted in 1996 from Whole
Just because a concept or skill is
taught, there is no guarantee that
every child will learn it
Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read:
Thinking and learning about print.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Adams, M.J. (1998). The three-cueing
systems. In J. Osborn and F. Lehr (eds.),
Literacy for All: Issues in Teaching and
Learning (pp. 73-99). New York:
Guilford Press.
Gough, P.B. and Wren, S.A. (1999).
Constructing meaning: The role of
decoding. In J. Oakhill and R. Beard
(eds.), Reading Development and the
Teaching of Reading (pp. 59-78). Malden,
MA: Blackwell.
Language to Balanced Literacy, but NAEP
scores have been unaffected by this shift.
This should be no surprise Ð when the
prevalent philosophy shifted in the late '80s
and early '90s from Phonics to Whole
Language (with a period of balanced literacy
in between), NAEP scores did not change
then either. It would seem that the
philosophies that drive the curricula simply
do not in themselves have an impact on
student performance.
What does have an impact on student
performance has been a recurring theme
throughout this essay Ð the quality, strength,
knowledge and sophistication of the teacher
is what really matters for helping children to
become proficient readers. The strength of
the teacher plays a very large part in
determining the reading success of a
student. A strong teacher can help every one
of her students develop advanced reading
skills. A weak teacher can have the opposite
effect. The importance of providing good
professional development to engender a
population of highly qualified, diagnostic
reading teachers is paramount, and every
child will benefit. ItÕs not easy, but anybody
who tells you there is an easier solution to
the mounting problem of illiteracy is trying to
sell a myth.
Further Reading
To learn more about these and other related issues in reading instruction and reading
research, curious readers are encouraged to examine these titles:
Moats, L.C. (1999). Teaching reading is
rocket science. American Federation of
Teachers. Washington D.C.: Item # 372.
Snow, C., Burns, S., and Griffin, P. (eds.)
(1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in
Young Children. Washington D.C.:
National Academy Press.
Stanovich, K.E. (1986). Matthew Effects
in Reading: Some consequences of
individual Differences in the acquisition
of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly,
21, 360- 407.
Stanovich, K.E. (1992). How to think
straight about psychology. New York:
Harper Collins.
The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory • www.sedl.org Page 13

1 comment:

  1. Your argument that dyslexia can not be genetic because reading has not been around long enough to become part of our genetic makeup is not well thought out.

    You could say the same thing about the tendency to get lung cancer from smoking . It can't be genetic because smoking has not been around long enough.

    We have genetic traits of processing information of all sorts and have always have. The hunters and gatherers had to read animal signs that require clues just as subtle as the alphabet. The same is true of reading clues to differentiate types of plants and their many uses.

    While we have not yet discovered genes for IQ it has been known that IQ is genetic. IQ like dyslexia is likely to involve many different genes that interact together in complex ways.

    Many genetic traits have been shown to exist by studying identical twins because they have the same genetic makeup.

    Twin studies have shown that dyslexia does have an environmental aspect also but much of dyslexia has also been shown to be genetic.

    It would be hard to argue the a person's height is not genetic and yet 500 years ago people were much shorter.

    For every complex problem there is always a short simple but wrong explanation.

    ReplyDelete