Issues in Reading Instruction
There has been long-standing controversy about the best way to teach reading. But there is now strong evidence that systematic, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics is the superior approach to beginning reading instruction. In spite of the convergence of the evidence, "progressive" educators are still resisting this, in favor of "balanced" reading, a euphemism for the misguided whole language approach. Up to 80% of students in special education are of normal intelligence, but have a reading disability as a result of inappropriate instruction. Many reading experts believe that the great majority of these children would have learned to read at grade level if they had been taught to read using scientifically based approaches to reading. Special education remediation occurs too late, is enormously expensive, and techniques currently popular in public schools are generally ineffective. This site offers information and links about the phonics vs. whole language debate.
The Evidence Speaks for Itself:
National Reading Panel The NRP was convened by congressional mandate to review the evidence on reading instruction. Their findings clearly support systematic, explicit instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness. Concise overview on their FAQ page
NICHD Reading Resources The NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) is a branch of the prestigious National Institutes of Health. They advocate systematic explicit phonics as part of a reading program for all children, beginning in kindergarten
Reading: A Research Based Approach An article from the NICHD
Overview of Reading and Literacy Initiatives Statement of Dr. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, NICHD
The Prevention of Reading Difficulties by Joseph Torgeson, a member of the NRP and noted reading researcher
Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children by Joseph K. Torgeson, a member of the NRP
Improving the Effectiveness of Reading Instruction in One Elementary School: A Description of the Process An example of how successfully children can learn to read if given the right tools
Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of "Balanced " Reading Instruction by Louisa Moats, a member of the NRP. She explains why you should be wary when educators say they are using a "balanced" approach.
Reading Recovery: An Evaluation of Benefits and Costs By Bonnie Grossen This article, and the one below, demonstrate what kind of information should be available when evaluating a curriculum.
The Research Base for Reading Mastery By Bonnie Grossen Another article demonstrating sound research methods.
Various Articles on the Phonics vs. Whole Language Debate Wonderful article by Martin Kozloff criticizing Whole Language. Browse his website for a fascinating critique of progressive education
Explicit or Implicit Phonics: "Therein Lies the Rub" by Dolores Hiskes From the National Right to Read Foundation Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Educational Malpractice? The Century of Miseducation of America's Teachers What To Do When You're Told: We Do Teach Phonics Guided Reading, Whole Language Style
Local Physician Speaks Out A pediatrician speaks about the effects of poor reading instruction on his patients. He has a similar article, The New Comprachicos
Whole Language vs. Phonics From Halcyon House
AFA Network of Georgia Discussion of Phonics vs. Whole Language
What is Whole Language? Analysis of the problem with whole language instruction
What To Do When You're Told: We Do Teach Phonics From the National Right to Read Foundation
Phonemic Awareness A deficit in phonemic awareness appears to be the underlying problem in most reading disabilities. Phonemic Awareness Prevents Reading Disabilities Article describing phonemic awareness Ideas for phonemic awareness games and exercises
The Other Side Speaks
Sixty Years of Reading Research: But Who's Listening? By Steve Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Marilyn Bizar. This article, by whole language advocates, claims that there is a vast amount of scientific research supporting whole language. If you remain unconvinced about the quality of education research, spend some time reviewing their references. If you have any background in evaluating research, it will be abundantly clear that the "research" they cite is of appallingly poor quality. Best Practices in Reading Teacher Guide An example of contemporary reading instruction. Most of what is presented in this guide is contradicted by what the real reading research tells us about how children best learn to read. But it is likely that this is the approach being used in your local school. It is outrageous that professionals label something as "Best Practice" when it has no solid scientific basis. While the guide provides references, they are simply opinion pieces, not research studies that collect and analyze data. Compare the references to those of an article like Catch Them Before They Fall and the superiority of the real research should be obvious.
National Right to Read Foundation Lots of articles about reading instruction
Reading and Reading Disabilities
Reading Rockets Information about teaching kids to read and reaching those who struggle
U.S. Department of Education Reading First Reading First is an ambitious national initiative to help every young child in every state become a successful reader. This effort is based on high expectations for what can and should happen for all students: that instructional decisions will be guided by the best available research.
International Dyslexia Association If your child is dyslexic, or you are concerned about a possible reading problem, contact the IDA for help
Illinois Loop is a grassroots group in Chicago that has excellent information on reading, grammar, and writing Reading Reform Foundation There are similar issues in the UK Educate your Dyslexic Child at Home Lots of information about appropriate instruction for dyslexics