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Re: “Sandra Stotsky calls for reading-teacher reform

Please allow me to clarify a couple of points. First of all, 25 years ago, and when Dr. Stotsky studied with the great Dr. Chall, phonics was not the norm in elementary schools. As a matter of fact, just 15 years ago, when I taught reading in another state, I was told that I couldn’t teach phonics because our school used a whole language approach. Rest assured, however, that I did teach my students phonics because their well being was more important to me than “ruffling feathers” in the front office. Thanks to researchers such as Dr. Chall and many others, and thanks to brain imaging technology that has advanced research in the area of reading, I stand by my statement that the Reading Wars are dead. We know that the beginning point of learning to read involves breaking the code, much like the beginning point of learning to play music is about understanding and reading notes.

The problem is not that Colleges of Education are doggedly hanging onto a “look-say” method of teaching reading or that teachers refuse to teach phonics. The problem may be that districts and schools think that 10 to 15 minutes of phonics every day during a whole group lesson is enough. For some children it may be, but for many children, this is not sufficient and they need more explicit instruction in a small group. Research has demonstrated this time and time again. Another problem may very well be that some districts and schools will only hire an assistant teacher, with no teaching credentials, to work with struggling readers as interventionists. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. However, I would suggest that trying to resurrect the Reading Wars is not productive.

Dr. Deborah Owens
Associate Professor of Reading
Arkansas State University

8 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by dowens on 07/06/2012 at 9:11 AM
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