Saturday, January 22, 2005

Teaching Reading: Scientific American March 2002

how_to_teach_reading.pdf (application/pdf Object)

This important article was published in Scientific American in March of 2002. It's essential reading for any parent who's child is struggling to read. The SciAm web site charges for a copy of the article, but a PDF is distributed on Lexia Learning web site. Once you toss out some irrelevant pictures it's barely six pages long.

The article is a popular version of an analysis done in 2001/2002 for the American Psychological Society. It recapitulates the conclusions from the year 2000 NIH report, but it also delves into the politics of how reading is taught. In brief the scientific evidence for a phonics approach is quite strong, but progressive educators strongly believed in the 80s and 90s that a holistic creative approach with an ad hoc use of phonics was superior. A part of this belief seems to have been a deconstructionist approach to evidence; a belief that some things could not be tested or evaluated but rather had to be managed experientially.

Right wing conservatives were enraged by the "whole-word/whole-language" approach. Phonics, often associated with religious schooling, became their rallying cry. I don't know why they were angy, but, sadly for a leftie like me, the social conservatives were right about Phonics. Whole-language instruction is not the best way to teach reading for most children.

This is an article I'd like to distribute quite widely.

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