Rethinking Reading Policy in the Science of Reading Era: What Paul Thomas will be saying at LitCon this year. An update by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Rethinking Reading Policy in the Science of Reading Era: What Paul Thomas will be saying at LitCon this year. An update by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Paul Thomas will be a featured speaker again at this year’s LitCon conference. Details about the conference will appear at the end of this blog entry. Let’s first find out a little bit about Paul.

Here is an interview I did with Paul last year. Here are the topics we discussed. They are time-stamped.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. (01:30)

2. Recent issues of RRQ and P.D. Pearson’s new book have led many to believe that it is “not settled science.”  What is your take on that? (02:50)

3. Does it make sense to effectively ban selected practices found in balanced approaches to reading, e.g., reading Recovery, workshop teaching or guided reading? (6:45)

4. What is your take on some SOR programs, including retention in 3rd grade, as a part of the program to raise test scores? (10:47)

5. Cambourne and Crouch recently said we should stop using the Reading Wars metaphor and replace it with the metaphor of the Reading Quilt- with different “sides” adding different pieces to the quilt. Do you see any hope for that point of view? Do you see hope for an end to the divisive discourse?  Do you see hope for ending the reading wars? (13:20)

6. Final thoughts (24:00)

Here is the YouTube interview: https://youtu.be/qoyxLyHP53M

Since doing the above interview, Paul has had much to say about the social media version of the science of reading. Last April, Paul challenged Emily Hanford’s reporting on  Dr. May’s longitudinal study of Reading Recovery LINK. He pointed out that a British study published near the same time as the study Hanford reported showed that Recovery did demonstrate a positive long-term effect on reading achievement. Yet Hanford chose to ignore that study. My own criticism of Hanford’s position pointed out how she also slanted her reporting on Dr. May’s longitudinal study in her recent podcast. She reported on the study in such a way that it appeared the study proved Reading Recovery doesn’t work. When presenting the study at the AERA conference,  Dr. May’s answers to inquiries about Reading Recovery were the opposite of what Hanford had implied. Dr. May said, “schools should give Reading Recovery to students and ensure they follow up on them later.” LINK.   

At this year’s LitCon, Paul will be diving deep into the issue of what reading policies should look like in the era of the Science of Reading, especially considering all the misdirection and misinformation that have appeared lately in social media.

Here is a link to his video about his upcoming appearance. In it, he promises to give ideas around how to stop doing the same things we have done repeatedly for the last 100 years and instead try something different.

Here is a link to Paul’s Book: https://https://www.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students-2nd-edwww.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students

Follow Paul on Twitter: @plthomasEdD 

Here is a link to Paul’s blog: https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Here is a link to Paul’s newest blog post about problems with the way media covers SOR: https://www.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students-2nd-ed

Also see Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. LINK

Here is a link to the LitCon 2023 website: LINK

Over the next couple of months, I will continue blogging about interviews with various literacy leaders. Eric Litwin and Lester Laminack have both agreed to be interviewed. I will also be doing a guest blog for the Robb Review. So it will be a busy and productive time.

So, until next week,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Let’s use common sense to guide the way to common practices: A centrist’s advice on traversing the current social media debate about best practices in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Let’s use common sense to guide the way to common practices: A centrist’s advice on traversing the current social media debate about best practices in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

In the past few weeks, the current debate on social media has heated up to the boiling point. If one is to believe some social media posts, all that has come before in reading has failed. Publishers of the old ways of doing things continue to publish only because of the money made on those products. The products themselves are complete failures. There is a knight in shining armor on the horizon. That would be the new ways being advocated by some vocal proponents who claim they have found the answers we need to solve our nation’s reading problems. The answer lies in throwing out all the old and replacing it with their methods and products. In this week’s blog, I will again push back on this social media version of the Science of Reading and offer ideas about a different way to proceed. Here are some points to consider:

  1. When looking at the claims of some SOR advocates on social media, it is a buyer-beware market. With her permission, I am presenting a Twitter thread posted by Jordan Page. The thread illustrates the point that it is a buyer-beware market:

Jordan’s experience is typical of many educators who go looking for new programs. Publishers use labels like Science of Reading or Research-Based to sell products, whether the labels really fit or not. Research has become weaponized LINK. Rachel Gabriel warns that not all research is created equal. Here is a screen capture from her RRQ article LINK.

As part of the “buyer beware” way to approach the acquisition of materials and programs, educators would do well to ensure the research used to prove the value of such programs is examined carefully. Ensure the research comes from peer-reviewed sources and the measures used in the studies are appropriate.

  • Some of the reporting on social media uses slanted misleading evidence. This is especially true of research claiming to prove that the most used publishers are selling flawed products despite the evidence that shows the methods are flawed. I respectfully disagree with what many of these folks are saying. As I discussed last week, they sometimes use “discount and discredit” tactics designed to “prove” the alternate methods don’t work LINK. For this reason, I have labeled this group the social media branch of SOR to set them apart from other SOR advocates.

One clear example of misdirection and selective reporting can be found in the recent media postings about May’s study about the long-term effect of Reading Recovery. That study was reported as showing that over time Reading Recovery students got worse, i.e., not only did they fail to keep the gains made in recovery, but they actually moved backward. Let’s look at a screen capture of what Dr. Billy Molasso, Ph.D., in a Nov 14th advocacy alert for the Reading Recovery Community.

Links from the screen capture

Hurry, Fridkin and Holliman’s study LINK

Multiple longitudinal studies. LINK

The study had a 75% attrition rate (a major red flag), and as the last two bullet points indicate, the author of the May study still favored the use of Reading Recovery. Omitting that demonstrates reporting designed to prove a point rather than reporting that rises to the standard of good journalism. I advise taking a buyer-beware approach when dealing with these social media versions of the Science of Reading. This is just one of many examples of the incomplete, slanted, and misleading reporting done by many of the folks in the social media branch of SOR.

  • Another social media branch of the SOR is made of individuals providing services to Dyslexic children. Frequently they have very narrow views of what constitutes good instruction in reading. They focus mainly on teaching phonics and use only synthetic phonics to do that. I question whether their approach reflects the best practices indicated by this comprehensive review of the research around dyslexia reported in the RRQ LINK, to the review.

Part of my reason for that concern is that these individuals are often evasive about how much time they spend on comprehension. A few have admitted they leave comprehension to others. Often, when they do check for comprehension, it is at a word or sentence level, not a passage level. There is virtually no evidence that they teach comprehension strategies at a passage level. This precludes any extensive use of what Duke has called the Science of Reading Comprehension. LINK

When considering this manner of delivering reading instruction, a method I characterize as Phonics First, Comprehension Later, district leaders should consider whether such a course will result in improved comprehension. Consider the slide from P.D. Pearson from his YouTube presentation on the Science of Reading Comprehension. LINK

Pearson’s information (which includes 86 studies) certainly calls into question the Phonics First, Comprehension later approach. The information that 1/3 of the students not passing the 3rd-grade test were fluent also should give one pause about an approach that relies almost exclusively on improving decoding. Frequently the Phonics First, Comprehension later, folks report their results using tests focused mainly on decoding. Please consider what students will be required to do on the end-of-the-year state reading tests to see if that is a sufficient test of the worth of the Phonics First, Comprehension Later programs. See Box 1 below. It lists what is required on state reading tests. It is taken from an article by Nell Duke LINK.

  • The centrist point of view- what is it?

What is a centrist? (taken from my 10/22/2022 blog LINK. Those who follow this blog know that for the past four years, I have explored the issues surrounding the so-called reading wars LINKLINKLINK. One of my followers, Judy Boksner, described a centrist this way:

(Be sure to visit Judy’s YouTube Channel LINK)

This slide gives the key to why I am a centrist:

  • Here is one explanation of why students are not learning to read. It is an excerpt from my 09/18/22 blog LINK:

I ENDED THAT BLOG ENTRY WITH THE FOLLOWING:

I’m back to my mantra. “Let’s use common sense to find common ground.” Let’s recognize that what works with one child doesn’t always work with another. Let’s put a moratorium on talking about what’s wrong with “the other side(s) methods and instead ask- is there anything from the other side(s) ideas that I can use to help my kids when my preferred methods don’t work? In my original post about this four years ago, I called this creating a reading evolution LINK.

Please note that this final analysis includes the scenario of districts using ideas from balanced reading and SOR. That is what I hope the centrist point of view will lead to—finding common ground by using ideas from both sides.

Dr. Sam’s Blog in the Coming Weeks.

Starting next week, I will continue doing blogs about various literacy leaders. The first will be about P.L. Thomas, with information on his upcoming appearance at LitCon.

So, until next week,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who, uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Let’s stop weaponizing research and instead use ALL the research to learn from each other. (An open message to Emily Hanford and her followers)

Let’s stop weaponizing research and instead use ALL the research to learn from each other. (An open message to Emily Hanford and her followers)

Before reading the blog post, please consider this:

PREQUEL

MY LIST OF KEY TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE CURRENT CONTROVERSIES RESULTING FROM HANFORD’S RECENT PODCASTS & POSITION STATEMENTS. SOME OF THEM ARE IDEAS POSITED BY OTHER EDUCATORS

  • Overall- my take on Hanford’s position is that her overall story is INCOMPLETE and not even close to being on target.
  • Many of us are asking for the rest of the story.
  • The data Hanford provides to “prove” her path to literacy works focuses on short-term success with teaching decoding. Recent studies have questioned whether the short-term success of Hadford’s favored approaches really constitutes a silver bullet LINK.
  • A test that directly measures reading should include the following:

The chart is taken from this article LINK

  • Hanford’s view of reading that reading = decoding is incomplete. If one takes the more inclusive view that reading = decoding plus comprehension Hanford’s data for long-term success in teaching reading is almost nonexistent. That is because the testing instruments used in most of the studies she cites focus mainly on decoding and do not include a direct measure of comprehension (see Box 1).
  • Tests of READING must include both an assessment of decoding and an assessment of comprehension. When measuring reading, the testing instruments’ comprehension measures must be direct (see Box 1). The research design should include longitudinal multi-year data showing the impact on both decoding AND COMPREHENSION parts of the reading scores. Folks taking the narrow view of what constitutes Science of Reading have consistently ignored requests to produce such studies. Instead, they focus on studies demonstrating only the strengths of their preferred methods and the weaknesses of the methods they wish to replace.
  • SOR, as defined by Hanford, fails to include enough attention to comprehension. There is plenty of evidence that SOR folks spend time assessing and practicing comprehension but very little evidence that they spend much time TEACHING comprehension or comprehension strategies.
  • Too many important issues have become oversimplified and polarized; it is irresponsible to reduce the teaching of reading to phonics instruction and nothing more.
  • What works for one child doesn’t always work for another. We need to adapt our policies and practices accordingly.

For a time, let’s suspend the talk around our areas of disagreement. Let’s instead talk about areas of agreement and common ground. The following essay is designed to help readers seek out and define that common ground. As I learned from Nell Duke and others, that is not a path where we use research to prove our predetermined points. The path we need to follow is one where we follow research to see where it leads.

==================================================================

Let’s stop weaponizing research and instead use ALL the research to learn from each other. (An open message to Emily Hanford and her followers)

It is no secret that one group within the science of reading movement claims they represent the one and only science of reading. They say that what has come before are failed practices in desperate need of replacement. Emily Hanford’s recent podcasts epitomize that line of thinking. Hanford and folks who agree with her claim to have one-size-fits-all research-based answers that will help almost every child.   As you will see in this blog entry, I don’t think they do. Let’s see why I say that.

Keep in mind Hanford’s background, work history and credentials. Her background is in public relations. She has used her skills from this background to create a successful public relations campaign for her position on social media and elsewhere. That is easy to do when much of what she says is never peer-reviewed. She has convinced many folks of the correctness of her position. The problem is her position is based on both questionable research and an incomplete look at the research. So, it would seem Hanford has her own story to tell (sell). It is designed to convince folks that the best course is to adopt her favored methods and abandon all others. I question whether Hanford or any other folks taking this position have all the research they need to back it up. Let’s see why.

For starters, a careful examination of the research reveals that many well-credentialed researchers do not believe that it’s all settled science and that there is only one science of reading with one set of folks having exclusive rights to it. Any number of researchers take issue with that assertation. LINK. These researchers warn that that position fails to consider all the research. They have also questioned the quality of the research she claims “proves” her position LINK. As indicated earlier, they note that her pronouncements are often not subject to peer review. Too often, the “successes” she claims for her methods are based on tests that mainly measure decoding, not full comprehension tests (tests that measure everything contained in this chart).

Link to the article from which this chart is taken. LINK

Some of the people Hanford seems to support have actually been charged with “making that stuff up” LINK and taking an indefensible “Phonics First Phonics Only” point of view  LINK. The number of researchers taking a critical position about those claiming there is one and only one science of reading is far too great for anyone to claim that all researchers agree on that point. There is no one “science of reading” LINK, LINKIt is time for Hanford and others to retract that claim and the claim that their point of view represents the one and only science of reading.

Another problem is that she lauds

the success of literacy programs in places like Florida and Mississippi. But those programs include the practice of retaining students. That practice is harmful to all students. It is especially egregious in terms of its impact on children of color LINK. I call on Hanford and others to join those of us who call for all literacy programs to drop this hurtful practice. She should not hold these programs up as examples of best literacy practices until these incredibly hurtful practices are removed.  

In this week’s podcast, Hanford has crossed over from journalism (using a very generous definition of that term) to yellow press journalism. She has done that by delivering unfounded personal attacks on the leadership of competing reading methods, claiming those methods are failed and ineffective and implying that the leaders of those methods are simply in it for the money.

Let’s look at a key problem with the focus of Hanford’s analysis. Here is a screen capture from the transcript of her latest podcast:

For Hanford, reading is decoding (sounding out words). This is classic Phonics First/Phonics Only thinking. That kind of approach has been roundly criticized by major figures in the field like Shanahan. LINK. In the meantime, the clear successes of the students’ improved performance on leveled text (including improved comprehension) are discounted/ignored.

As I already indicated, I strongly feel that Hanford has crossed a line in her most recent podcast. Her personal attacks on major figures in the literacy world are based on accepting her PR proclamations that most previous methods were failures. Those claims are based on the continued public relations tactic of discount and discredit. They do not hold up when ALL the evidence is considered. Reading Hanford’s account, one is left with the impression that there has never been a study that shows any of the criticized methods works. That is not true. As one example of Hanford’s discount and discredit tactic, let’s dig deeper into her analysis of one of those methods- her analysis of Reading Recovery. Here is another screen capture from the  transcript of her podcast:

So. the initial study she cites gives results that indicate that Reading Recovery works well. She then goes on to point out that there are studies indicating the results don’t stick. That is true, but does that mean Reading Recovery doesn’t work in the long run? As with all research, the devil is in the details. I interviewed Susan Vincent, who told me about her district’s results LINK. In her district RR continued to work in the long term. In her district, the reading recovery students were returning to a Tier 1 program that was working, and students were making good progress. So, in her district, Reading Recovery did what it what supposed to do. It accelerated the students’ growth so they could benefit from the district reading program. Let’s discuss that point further.

Reading Recovery is an INTENSE, SHORT-TERM First-grade intervention. In places like Susan’s, where the students return to a working district program, the students continue to thrive. When citing studies that claim to show RR does not have long-term success, those studies often fail to ask the right question. The right question is, “on average, is the recovery students’ progress less than the progress of students in the district’s mainstream program?” Citing studies that fail to consider that factor as studies showing that RR has failed is a gross misrepresentation of the research results. It provides a convenient method to discount and discredit an intervention that is, in point of fact, working exactly as it should work.

Discounting and discrediting, as Hanford and others have done with competing methods of instruction, is a great public relations ploy. Often, the ink isn’t dry on the reports of success before the attacks on the results begin. The attacks on competing programs’ results are subject to far more stringent standards of success than the defense of their own program. BTW at least some of the data they use to evaluate their own programs are of questionable quality LINK  The bottom line is that this a great public relations ploy,  but it is a horrible way to evaluate programs or get ideas for improving programs. In the case of Reading Recovery, they discredit widely accepted sources of information like the What Works Clearinghouse LINK.

This is from the draft of a joint statement being prepared about this topic. It says:

“We are asking for the rest of the story. The research that is being ignored, the stories of school districts and educators who have seen incredible success using comprehensive approaches to reading instruction that are conveniently left out of this narrative.”

Hanford claims the women she attacks are selling folks on really bad products and continuing to do so because they are in it for the money. It doesn’t occur to her or her followers that these women are continuing to use the methods because they know they are helping and that they have data showing the methods are working. Calling something a “failed method” when data shows otherwise is public relations at its worst. As I’ve already pointed out, she and her supporters have not convinced the whole research world that they are the one and only science of reading and that she and her supporters have the one and only answer. That makes the very personal and unsupported attacks against these major literacy figures especially troubling

Before getting into my suggestions on what we could/should do about the whole issue, let me say something as a teacher of 50 years. Many people have bought into the half-truths, misdirections and misinformation being spread by the public relations campaigns of Hanford and others. These supporters are viciously attacking teachers for doing their job. The Twitter attacks are mean-spirited, and because of them, many educators have simply been bullied into not speaking out. I’ve had firsthand experience with these.

  • I have been told I’m in it for the money. The vast majority of my income comes from the pension I earned from teaching in Title 1 schools for 30-plus years, schools with very high percentages of at-risk children. No one pays me to write this blog, and I cover all the expenses for publishing it. I do not use any of the WordPress features that are available to use to generate money. Bottom line- I’m in this for the kids, not for the money.
  • Some have said I should be charged with educational malpractice (decades of successfully helping children with test scores to prove it). Threats to sue for malpractice ring a little hollow since I’m not aware of a single case where such suits have been carried out successfully. It might have something to do with the fact that when all the evidence (research) is weighed in, it becomes apparent that their charge that all things from the past are failures simply doesn’t hold up.

The manner in which these attacks on Twitter are delivered is mean-spirited and hurtful. Early on in my involvement on social media, teacher friends advised me against saying anything at all because of the toxic climate on literacy issues. As I’ve indicated, some teachers have stopped posting. Others have simply left the teaching field altogether. Hanford’s latest attack doubles down on encouraging this propensity to attack teachers with the audacity to question skewed and inaccurate assertions around the research. She has now added major successful literacy figures to the teachers under attack. I call upon educators from all sides to bring civility and decorum back to discussions on social media. I hope Hanford will join me in making that call for civility by all sides.

Remember that several of the leaders under attack started as teachers. They were successfully using methods Hanford claims don’t work. That’s how their businesses got so large. Hanford’s claims that the practices promoted by such teachers are “failed practices” is bogus. That is not all she gets wrong. Her claim that they are in it for the money could easily be applied to her own situation. Is she in it because her job is public relations, and she needs a campaign that will capture public attention and, in the process, create lots of new income for her?

Actually, I believe that all the individuals I’ve talked to, including Emily, are not mainly in it for the money.  I think they all believe in what they do. I think it would behoove Emily to back off from these unfounded allegations and recognize that the women she is attacking became successful not because of their charisma but because they found paths to literacy that worked for many children.

By the way, these teachers who have helped create successful businesses have a habit of adapting to new information (all good teachers do). Let’s take Lucy Calkins, for instance. I’ve known her and her work for over 20 years. Revision is at the heart of her way of teaching writing and reading. Her teaching methods are rooted in the idea of changing when new evidence comes along. Please keep in mind that is something she has been doing in all the twenty years I’ve known her, not just in reaction to the most recent criticisms of some of her practices. Calkins made the recent changes to help kids, knowing full well that folks taking extreme views around the issues would make that out to be a “retreat” (more public relations ploys). I view her doing what she has done as an incredibly brave stand.  

Let’s turn to an area where workshop teaching methods really shine. That is the area of teaching (not just assessing or practicing) comprehension. I have written on the point that research supports the notion there is more to reading comprehension than building background LINK. My experience with workshop teaching convinces me that workshop teachers go well beyond simply teaching background. I have to wonder aloud whether Hanford and her followers understand the implications of the  Science of Comprehension model LINK. I see plenty of evidence SOR folks assess and practice comprehension but very little evidence that they spend much time TEACHING comprehension/comprehension strategies. Perhaps Hanford can point me to the evidence demonstrating they do spend substantial time TEACHING comprehension/comprehension strategies.

Another question I have for Hanford is on the changes she has made to her SOR views around reading. How has your model evolved? What have you done about the criticisms that your model overdoes decoding and underdoes comprehension? I’ll again point out that the notion that providing background is sufficient to develop reading comprehension has been thoroughly discredited. It is true that everyone who has seriously studied reading comprehension knows that background knowledge is critical. I am not asking whether it is necessary (it is), but rather, I am asking is it sufficient? Do we need to do more than provide background knowledge? There is a whole body of research around the science of comprehension LINK. So, Ms. Hanford, what is your take around the research in the Science of Reading Comprehension model?

Overall, my take on Hanford and her public relations pronouncements is that her story is INCOMPLETE and not even close to being on target.

How do the narrowly focused direct teaching of phonics approaches that Hanford champions fair when looked at from folks outside her chosen group of researchers? Let me call your attention to recent studies that show the methods that Hanford and others promote are also subject to question. Below you will find an article indicating that OG is not a magic bullet. It is not the only such article LINK. Even some advocates of the Science of Reading question how phonics is currently being used within SOR LINK.

As indicated in the headline above- New research evidence is at odds with the views of many dyslexia advocates and state policies. Also, consider this screen capture from this study:

Link to the study LINK.

I could use the preceding and research cited in several of my blogs to turn the reading wars into the research wars. My research vs. your research. Some very learned folks have written on that topic LINK. The trouble is what I think the above information shows is something everyone should have long since become aware of.

EVERY METHOD & EVERY APPROACH HAS LIMITS AND LIMITATIONS.

That is true for any method you care to name, regardless of what “camp” the method comes from. I do try to read ALL the latest research LINK. For instance, the recent RRQ (Reading Research Quarterly) issues said, “we aren’t there yet” in terms of developing a complete science of reading. Articles from that same prestigious research journal warn against adopting binary thinking. Yet Emily’s public relations campaign seems predicated on an us (her brand of SOR) vs. them (all other programs) analysis.   Turning the current dialogue into an us vs. them is counterproductive. It guarantees that the current dialogue will again turn into what Frank Smith once called “The Endless Debate” as we play out the “my research vs. your research discussion.”

Let me suggest a different course.

Let’s first consider the fact that no one approach, no one focus (decoding or comprehension), has been shown to help every child every time. I suggested four years ago that we have a “reading evolution” LINK. Also, sides need to accept that when their preferred methods are given a reasonable chance, and those preferred practices don’t work for particular kids, folks need to be willing to try things from the “other sides.” For instance, Balanced literacy folks, who tend to favor analytic phonics over synthetic phonics- need to recognize that analytic phonics usually doesn’t work for Dyslexic children. So, they must find ways to provide those children with a different form of phonics instruction. BTW that doesn’t mean banning analytic phonics. Some children don’t thrive on synthetic phonics. They need analytic phonics  LINK. Reports from Australia indicate that some children there make no progress even after several YEARS of phonics instruction (see year three children) LINK. We need to find things that help those children for whom synthetic phonics doesn’t work LINK. We need help children who are word callers LINK. The list goes on.

As the recently issued joint statement draft says (bolding is mine):

  • At a time when information spreads quickly and, sadly, too many important issues have become oversimplified and polarized, it is irresponsible to reduce the teaching of reading to phonics instruction and nothing more. To imply that other approaches are not just wrong, but money-making schemes, is reckless. Teachers and students will not benefit from biased storytelling and finger-pointing, especially when so much is at stake.
  • You can believe in the critical importance of phonics and not agree with the incomplete story being sold in “Sold a Story,” which paints educators as naively inadequate, gives them a lot less credit than they deserve and diminishes their agency.
  • We are asking for the rest of the story. The research that is being ignored, the stories of school districts and educators who have seen incredible success using comprehensive approaches to reading instruction that are conveniently left out of this narrative

That brings me to the key idea in this blog entry’s title. Let’s stop weaponizing research to prove “our way” is the only way. Instead, let’s use ALL the research and learn from each other. It is time to join P.D. Pearson in what he once called the radical middle LINK. Please download and read his piece about that. What he said then still applies today. Let’s follow all the research and see where it will take us. I think Emily Hanford and the believers in her public relations campaign are not the future of reading instruction. Their narrow focus will result in helping some children (Dyslexics) at the expense of others (Word Callers et al.). Ultimately, their way is almost guaranteed to cause yet another swing of the pendulum because they are not addressing the needs of ALL the children. That is the key here- helping ALL the children. One size does not fit all!

The future of reading instruction belongs to empowered teachers armed with the knowledge of ALL the research and working within the curriculum created by each district. While thinking about that, let’s ensure that districts’ right to create curriculum is not eliminated. I feel that some of the recent literacy legislation endangers districts’ rights to create curricula. I’m not alone in that thinking. Districts know their students the best and are in the best position to decide what will help their particular population.

We’ve spent a lot of time lately, with all sides mainly discussing what’s wrong with the other side. Parents and teachers alike are reporting they are tired of the endless bickering. The fact of the matter is that both sides are wrong in some ways. I am not the first to suggest that LINK. It’s equally true that, to some degree, both sides are right. Maybe it’s time to stop oversimplifying and creating false dichotomies and start asking about what works and doesn’t work in the setting of each district. As we do so, let’s use the same criteria for evaluating the research about what works. Perhaps then we can cut through the Gordian Knot that has been at the heart of this great debate for the past 50 years. I think the fundamental cause of the knot is a very simple thing:

What works for one child doesn’t always work for another.

Folks need to adapt their policies and practices accordingly. That is what I was trying to say when I first proposed the idea of a reading evolution LINK, and why I have consistently called for less bickering and more talk LINK. Dare to dream!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Dr. Sam interviews Matt Renwick about his book Leading Literacy Like a C.O.A.C.H. and his upcoming workshop at Lit Con’s Literacy Institute

Dr. Sam interviews Matt Renwick about his book Leading Literacy Like a C.O.A.C.H. and his upcoming workshop at Lit Con’s Literacy Institute

From time to time, over the next few months, I will be interviewing folks from the various events where I will be speaking or presenting. This interview is about Matt Renwick and his book,  Leading Literacy Like a C.O.A.C.H. Matt will be presenting at LitCon’s leadership institute. It is a full-day session and includes lunch. Here is some information.

Here is the YouTube podcast of the interview:

Here are the time-stamped highlights of what we talked about

Here is a link to his book LINK:

Dr. Sam’s reflections about Matt, his book and his upcoming session. Matt sees five key elements to leading like a C.O.A.C.H., 1. Create confidence through trust; 2. Organize around a priority; 3. Affirm promising practices; 4. Communicate feedback; and 5. Help teachers become leaders and learners. Matt is the kind of principal every teacher wants to work for. He is a leader, but a leader who views his teachers as a team. As Matt describes in the interview a few highlights of how the programs in his buildings evolved, you can tell that he values his teachers and empowers them. He strives to create a teaching environment that allows teachers and students to thrive. I think a day of learning from him and all the things he does to help grow his building’s program will be well spent. This is a reminder that his all-day session is Saturday, Jan 28th, at LitCon. LitCon is held in Columbus, Ohio. There are also many other great things happening at that conference. Have a look for yourself, LINK.  

Dr. Sam’s Upcoming Blogs-  I anticipate I will continue to weigh in on the ongoing discussions generated by Emily Handford’s podcasts. In case you haven’t seen the special edition blog about Handford, here is a LINK. Paul Thomas has also weighed in on this topic LINK.  In addition, I’m trying to line up new folks to interview. As I indicated earlier, those will include speakers at conferences at which I will be presenting (LitCon, Write to Learn, Mo Early Childhood) and folks with new books. BTW I will be joining Matt at LitCon. Here is a link to the two sessions I will be doing there LINK. So until next week:

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Yvonna Graham talks about her new book- Dyslexia Tool Kit- Expanded Edition: An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Yvonna Graham talks about her new book- Dyslexia Tool Kit (What to do when phonics isn’t enough) Expanded Edition: An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

I met Yvonna online and found her work fascinating. She is the mother of a Dyslexic child with a success story to tell. As you’ll learn in the interview, she developed ways to help her daughter and worked with her successfully. Her daughter now holds a Ph.D. In fact, her daughter is the co-author of this book. Her methods are based on research. Her way of presenting them is an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use format. That is the best of all worlds. Let’s find out more about Yvonna.

Biography: Yvonna Graham, B.A. Psych, M.A. Spec. Ed., taught reading for over 30 years. Her first student was her deeply dyslexic daughter, who was pronounced uneducable by the first-grade teacher.

Her daughter is now Dr. Alta Graham, computer scientist, composer, and co-author of Dyslexia Tool Kit. Alta’s insight into how the dyslexic brain learns uniquely informs this book. 

After founding Mumbling Marmot Tutoring in Durango CO, Yvonna used multiple methods to teach children and adults who failed to read when restricted to a “phonics only” approach. Dyslexia Tool Kit rejects the idea that everyone must learn to read in the same way and offers 27 diverse tools to try. A simple format that avoids technical language makes this book surprisingly accessible. Yvonna did not invent these tools; rather, she gathered them from a wide variety of research on dyslexia and simplified them for use by anyone who wants to teach someone else to read, using dyslexic strengths while avoiding anxiety, embarrassment, or fear.

Yvonna feels especially honored to have been interviewed by three of her literacy heroes: Dr. Marion Blank (Reading Kingdom), Fernette Eide (co-author of The Dyslexic Advantage), and most recently, Dr. Sam Bommarito (https://doctorsam7.blog/)

Yvonna also recommends the following resources for parents and teachers of dyslexic kids:

www.dyslexiakit.net

www.dyslexicadvantage.org

www.madebydyslexia.org

www.dyslexia.com

Here is the YouTube podcast of the interview:

These are the highlights of what we covered:

Here is a link to her book LINK:

Dr. Sam’s reflections about Yvonna and her work

Yvonna is not the first parent of a dyslexic child who went on to share with the world how they helped their child (for instance, LINK, LINK). In the introduction to the book, Yvonna and Alta remind us that “Dyslexia is a difference, not a disability.” I like Dr. Graham’s notion of replacing “in spite of” with “because.” It rings true for me. Because I have ADHD, my brain is wired differently. It gives me the ability to see connections that others don’t. It helps me understand the children I work with better. It is actually a gift, not a curse.

That said- I don’t want anyone to take the tag in the title (what to do when phonics isn’t enough) to mean that phonics is unimportant or should be ignored. When I in-service teachers, I teach them how to teach all forms of phonics. Most recently, I find myself strongly advocating the use of synthetic phonics first (for most kids). But what do you do if phonics isn’t working or isn’t enough? I’ve discussed the Australia reports (see the section under the Context heading) LINK. There are children for whom analytic phonics fails to have an impact. What do you do? In my opinion, this book gives you many things to do. I also see this book as a source of ideas for common ground. For instance, learning to track (match), reading together, spelling, word roots, and student-created stories are all things I do with my students. This book provides a good source of ideas that I believe we can all agree upon. Suppose we would start talking about what we agree on FIRST. In that case, I think some of the rancor and division that characterizes many literacy dialogues today could be replaced with genuine discussions about how to help all the kids. Dare to dream!

Dr. Sam’s Upcoming Blogs-  I anticipate I will continue to weigh in on the ongoing discussions generated by Emily Handford’s podcasts (in case you missed yesterday’s special edition podcast about Handford, here is a LINK.)In addition, I’m trying to line up new folks to interview. Those will include speakers at conferences at which I will be presenting (LitCon, Write to Learn, Mo Early Childhood) and folks with new books. So until next week:

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

P. David Pearson speaks out about Hanford’s portrayal of Marie Clay: My take- Hanford has gotten things wrong (again). A blog entry by Dr. Sam Bommarito

P. David Pearson speaks out about Hanford’s portrayal of Marie Clay: My take- Hanford has gotten things wrong (again).

(Note to readers- I usually post every Saturday morning. But this Facebook post from Dr. Pearson certainly merits a special edition. My regularly scheduled Saturday post will come tomorrow)

Introduction

Let me remind readers first of who P.D. Pearson is. He revolutionized the reading field with his 1983 introduction of the gradual release model LINK. Pearson also began the revolution in how we teach comprehension. He has written scores of articles published in top peer-reviewed journals and published numerous books, including one about the history of reading LINK, LINK. I noticed that book was absent from Hanford’s recently published “Top Twenty” books in literacy. More about that in future blogs. Right now, let’s look at what Dr. Pearson had to say.

LINK

I highly recommend that readers download the pdf and read it. To pique your interest, here are a few highlights from that document. I have bolded and italicized some things that I thought were particularly important.

Again, Marie was ahead of her time—doing design-based research before we had a name for it.”

Emergent literacy. Marie coined the term emergent literacy in her PhD thesis; more importantly, she enhanced our understanding of it enormously, both in Reading Recovery and her assessment work. When we utter the term, we usually mean to emphasize the idea that no matter how young, inexperienced, or novice you are as a reader and writer, there is a level at which, there is a task in which, you can demonstrate your emerging literacy competence. But I also like, as did Marie, the other end of the continuum—the idea that no matter how old, experienced, and expert you are as a reader or writer, there is always something more for you to learn—another book to read, another practice to master, another paper to write, or another word to learn. We are all emergent readers.”

“In teacher education, we began, in the late1970s and 80s, to champion the idea of the teacher as a reflective practitioner. Marie, in her famous “behind the glass” sessions—where a teacher in training and a teacher leader comment, in real-time, on the lesson enacted by a second teacher in training—figured out how to operationalize moment-by-moment real-time reflection about practice long before researchers in teacher education got there. This did not go unnoticed by colleagues. During my tenure at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Dick Anderson, Bonnie Armbruster, and Jan Gaffney developed adaptations of that model for our pre-service teacher education program. We see models of professional development come and go, that model in Reading Recovery stands the test of time. It endures because it is effective. …”

I sincerely hope the above highlights convince my readers that this document is a “must-read” and that they download and read the rest of it.

Pearson is certainly not alone in criticizing Hanford’s position.

Consider a recent edition of the Hechinger report:

Here is a link to the full report LINK.

Here is a key excerpt from that report (bolding is mine):

“But two recent academic papers, synthesizing dozens of reading studies, are raising questions about the effectiveness of these expensive education policies. A review of 24 studies on the Orton-Gillingham method, published in the July 2021 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Exceptional Children, found no statistically significant benefit for children with dyslexia. Instead, suggesting a way forward, a review of 53 reading studies, led by University of Virginia researcher Colby Hall and published online in September 2022 in Reading Research Quarterly, found that much cheaper reading interventions for children with a variety of reading difficulties were also quite effective for children with dyslexia.”

Hanford accuses some educators of selling a story. Yet, it seems she is selling a story herself. It is a story of how the methods she promotes are better than all that has come before. She claims it is time to replace the ineffective methods of the past. The only problem with her story is that, as P. David Pearson points out in his post, and as the Hechinger report indicates, she is simply wrong. Her story is only believable if you are willing to take the limited and limiting point of view about what reading is and if your review of the research is limited. In addition to the study just mentioned, a good place to get a complete overview is in this RRQ summary of the research LINK. Readers are also invited to consider the ideas of P.L. Thomas (that’s another book she omitted) LINK and the pushback from the Reading Recovery Community on what Hanford said about Clay LINK.

Hanford and others take the position that it’s all settled science and that they have the one and only true understanding of what the Science of reading is. I’ve pointed out before that not all researchers agree LINK. She also maintains that the current situation is all the fault of the failed practices of the past. Unfortunately, too often, the practices are labeled as failed because the evidence supporting them (and there is evidence supporting them LINK, LINK, LINK) is discounted and disregarded. That is a public relations ploy, not a serious discussion of research.  

Please consider my alternate explanation of why things aren’t what they should be:

As a centrist LINK, I take the position both sides (all sides) have gotten some things right and that both sides (all sides) have gotten some things wrong. I’ve suggested that instead of talking about what we disagree on and letting dichotomies dominate the discussion, we should, instead, turn our attention to what works based on ALL the available research. We shouldn’t be using research to prove our way is right and that it is the one and only way. Rather we should be following the research to see where it leads. That last idea is one I got from Nell Duke. That kind of thinking guided Marie Clay. That’s the kind of thinking that guides P.D. Pearson. At the end of the day, I’m all for using research to inform our instruction, but I also favor looking at all the research and applying the same criteria for evaluating that research LINK. In his essay, David calls upon us to honor Clay’s memory and Clay’s legacy. The best way to do that is to follow ALL the research and see where it leads to next. I think Dame Marie would like that very much.

TOMORROW

As I promised earlier this week, I will be posting the interview of Yvonna Grahm and Alta E. Graham about their new book Dyslexia Tool Kit: What to do when phonics isn’t enough.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Let’s stop using strawmen in our analysis of reading methods and instead start looking for common ground and common practices. By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Let’s stop using strawmen in our analysis of reading methods and instead start looking for common ground. By Dr. Sam Bommarito

The great debate in Twitter land has heated up again this week. Some folks are back to the assertion that balanced literacy is the root of all evil, and we must get rid of all forms of balanced literacy. Really?

First, let’s explore the actual origins of the term balanced literacy. Here is what Shanahan had to say in his Oct 2014 blog  LINK:

“The term “balanced literacy” was coined by the late Michael Pressley. He even published a book on it, during the “reading wars.”  (my note- the book has gone through several editions. LINK)  Michael was a proponent of phonics (he was an author of the Open Court reading series at the time), but he wanted to heal the great divide between people like him and Whole Language advocates. He felt that we needed to balance the demands of the two groups.

He supported the explicit teaching of decoding but believed the Whole Language folks were right when it came to motivation. He took it that Whole Language was all about or mainly about getting kids interested in reading.

He didn’t see balanced literacy as simply a political compromise between two warring camps, but as an acknowledgment about what each group had right . ..”

So, Pressley developed the term Balanced Literacy to find common ground between the code emphasis and meaning emphasis groups doing battle with each other at the time. Pressley was not alone in these views. See what P.D. Person, creator of the literacy practice known as the gradual release of responsibility, had to say in a piece entitled Life in the Radical Middle LINK:

“…But reading theory and practice are not the only intellectual arenas in which I find myself attracted to embracing what others see as binary opposites. In educational research more generally, I find the debate about qualitative versus quantitative research about as compelling as the new phonics/whole language debate. I cannot imagine why any field of inquiry would want to limit itself to a single set of tools and practices. Even though I find both debates interesting and professionally useful, I fear the ultimate outcome of both, if they continue unbridled by saner heads, will be victory for one side or another. That, in my view, would be a disastrous outcome, either for reading pedagogy or educational research. (the bolding is mine). A more flattering way to express this same position is to say that I have always aspired to the Greek ideal of moderation in all things or to the oriental notion that every idea entails its opposite….”

In sum, back in this era, Pressley and Pearson, both legends in the literacy field, seem to be warning against viewing things as binary or jumping to conclusions by going to extreme positions in the binary. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find recent issues of the RRQ warning against that same kind of binary thinking. 

Recently SOME (not all) SOR advocates continue to view things as binary. The scenario they promote is balanced literacy vs. SOR. When pressed for their definitions of balanced literacy, they often avoid answers. Essentially their view is anything that is not SOR is Balanced Literacy. They blatantly ignore or discount places where the key practices that are the heart of Pressley’s vision of balanced literacy have been successful. When asked about showing studies comparing the two “sides,” they have been unable to produce such studies. They usually claim that there are no clear definitions of Balanced Literacy, so they can’t really draw a sample of districts using Balanced Literacy. Hmmm, huge red flag! Instead, in their comparisons, they take all districts not doing SOR and lump them into the category of Balanced Literacy. Defining balanced literacy that way turns it into the quintessential strawman. This is because instead of using districts doing something like Presley envisioned as Balanced Literacy ( LINK, LINK, LINK), they also include districts doing things badly, districts doing little or nothing, districts with no real plans- you get the idea. When comparing SOR to such a strawman, of course, SOR wins.

Here is a LINK to a recent analysis I did of the problem with looking at things that way. These graphics help to explain the key points I make in the blog containing the analysis.

The Rocket represents the SOR projects. The circle represents practices in all the districts around the U.S.

The second graphic shows the rockets (successful implementations of SOR) and the stars (successful implementation of Pressley style Balance Literacy), the yellow circles represent other successful programs, and the large grey areas (MOST OF THE GRAPHIC) represent districts not having a successful literacy program.  

This graphic clearly demonstrates that the real culprit in the lack of progress in reading instruction lies not with properly implemented SOR or Balanced Literacy. Rather it lies with districts who do neither or who do one or the other badly, or have no real program at all. Being a centrist and seeker of common ground, I see the real hope for the future as lying with districts that include elements of both in what they do (see the circle where the rocket ship and star appear together!).

I’m back to my mantra. “Let’s use common sense to find common ground”. Let’s recognize that what works with one child doesn’t always work with another. Let’s put a moratorium on talking about what’s wrong with “the other side(s) methods and instead ask- is there anything from the other side(s) ideas that I can use to help my kids when my preferred methods don’t work? In my original post about this four years ago, I called this creating a reading evolution LINK.

One clear example of how this might apply in real life is the recent events in Australia where children with several years of synthetic phonics are still making no progress LINK. As you explore the link, look under the heading Context. In this instance, SOR folks have something to learn from the Balanced Literacy folks. The SOR folks really do need to develop some answers to the question of what to do to help children for whom several years of synthetic phonics instruction have failed to work.  I think the answers to such questions lie with the successful implementation of some constructivist-based practices.

In the spirit of looking at things from both sides (all sides), let’s also recognize that many children seem to thrive on synthetic phonics and do badly if they aren’t introduced to that form of phonics first. Hmm. Sounds like the Balanced Literacy folks have things they can and should learn from SOR.

In sum, I am saying that both sides (all sides) have things they can and should learn from the other.

At the end of the day, let us remember who the real boss of this situation should be. It should be the kids. It should be the needs of the kids. It should be developing ways to deliver instruction that meet all their needs. I must agree with Pearson that “victory for one side or another… would be a disastrous outcome, either for reading pedagogy or educational research”. I’ll end by saying let’s try something that has never been tried in the whole history of reading. Let’s adopt a centrist position and use the best of both sides (all sides) to help the kids. Let’s stop the fighting. Instead, let’s start using some common sense and look for common ground. Let’s follow ALL the research and see where it leads. Dare to dream!

FUTURE BLOGS

In the coming weeks and months, I’m scheduled to appear at several conferences. These include LitCon, Write to Learn and Missouri’s Early Childhood Conference. I’m arranging to do interviews with several of the key speakers at those conferences. So there should be some interesting blogs forthcoming. To start with next week I’ll be doing an interview with Yvonna Graham about her book DYSLEXIA TOOL KIT.

Until then,

Happy Reading and Happy Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

An overview of the newly released issue of The Missouri Reader: Includes articles by Laura Robb & Timothy Shanahan

An overview of the newly released issue of The Missouri Reader: Includes articles by Laura Robb & Timothy Shanahan

A blog entry by Dr. Sam Bommarito

As promised, the newest issue of The Missouri Reader is out. In this newest edition, several literacy folks give different points of view about the dialogue around the issues of teaching early reading.

As some of you may already know, I am the Co-Editor of this journal along with Glenda Nugent. The Missouri Reader has been around for over 45 years. It started as a “paper journal.”  Now we publish digitally. We have two issues each year. We are peer-reviewed, and our editorial board has many highly qualified people (see the journal’s sidebar on the Table of Contents page). We publish many articles by well-known experts in the reading field. However, we also encourage teachers to publish, especially action research, book reviews, and app reviews. The last page of each issue explains how to submit an article for review. We are an official publication of the Missouri Literacy AssociationMissouri Literacy Association is an ILA affiliate. The journal runs on the JOOMAG ™ platform.  No special software is needed. Anyone with the link below can read the current issue for free.

https://joom.ag/OEVI

I want to also call your attention to another issue for you to explore. It is a poetry issue that was published in 2019. It is our most-read issue of all time (however, I am hoping that this current issue may claim that honor soon). The poetry issue contains TONS of innovative ideas about how to use poetry in the classroom. It was the brainchild of Missouri’s own David Harrison. He approached Glenda Nugent (my Co-Editor) and I about the idea of a special issue dedicated especially to poetry. We are so glad he did. Here is the link to that issue. Feel free to share it with other interested educators.

https://joom.ag/o1ta

Current members of MLA are sent an email giving them early access to the journal. Once members have had their early access, we then distribute The Missouri Reader to the general public using what we call the “word of cyberspace.” We ask our readers to share the links to the magazine with other readers. As a result, we are now read all around the world. So, if you like what you see in one or both issues, please share the links. They’re both free. University professors, feel free to share the links with your classes if you like.  THANKS!

You can help support The Missouri Reader by joining the Missouri Literacy Association- membership is open to all. Or you can donate to help fund the costs associated with publishing this well-respected journal. Here is a link where you can join or donate:

https://mla31.wildapricot.org/

Until next week,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (Co-Editor of a peer-reviewed teacher’s journal)

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect any other person or organization’s views.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Singing Our Way into Fluency: Dr. Bommarito’s blog today talks about an article he co-authored in Literacy Today

Singing Our Way into Fluency: Dr. Bommarito’s blog today talks about an article he co-authored in Literacy Today

I was very excited when Ann Kay asked me about helping her write an article about brain research and music. Fast forward to the present, and I was even more excited to learn that the article had been accepted and published in Literacy Today. It appears in the October, November, December issue that was just released. Understand that Ann was the primary author and did the heavy lifting in writing the article. Tim Rasinski and I were co-authors and contributed some additional ideas and observations. Let’s look at a screen capture of the article’s first page. It will be followed by a link to read the entire article online.

Here is the link to use to read the entire article:

LINK

Summary of the Article

I begin the article by explaining how I use repeated readings with short reading passages, including poems and songs. In the article’s main body, Ann C. Kay explains how singing and other activities can help students develop their reading skills. A key quote is, “Auditory processing is a missing link to literacy.” She laments that many activities surrounding auditory processing have disappeared from current classrooms and playgrounds. She then gives many practical examples of how teachers and others can bring such activities back. Tim Rasinski, a major figure in the literacy world, finishes the article by tying this kind of literacy work to his ideas about the art and science of reading. I recently interviewed Tim and his colleagues about this very topic, LINK. Tim ends the article by saying, “We need to rediscover the importance of songs and singing for the reading curriculum and make it once more part of what we do in the preschool and primary grades.”

Additional Resources demonstrating the importance of music in helping students develop their reading skills

In the article, Ann gives ideas for further reading. In addition, please have a look at this interview I did with Ann and Nina Kraus, Ph.D., a scientist, inventor, and amateur musician who studies the biology of auditory learning. Dr. Kraus’s book, Of Sound Mind,  is a treasure trove of information about brain research supporting practices like Ann and I use. Here is a link to the interview

The screen capture below is of the front cover of Dr. Kraus’s book.

Here is a link you can use to order the book: 

LINK

Link to Ann Kay’s Rock and Read Project: LINK.

Final Thoughts:

I remember a talk I heard long ago at an IRA (Now ILA) convention. Judy Blume was the speaker. She said something that has stuck with me over all these years. She said to remember that “reading is its own reward.” She was making the case that intrinsic rewards are superior to extrinsic rewards. Nowhere is that thought more important than in the discussion of how to teach reading. I want to stay on the path outlined by folks like Ann, Tim and my good friend Eric Litwin. Eric has made a powerful case for promoting the joy of reading through music LINK. I believe that learning to read should be intrinsically joyful. Using music to scaffold children into learning to read is a powerful idea that can make that happen. It is backed by a growing body of brain research pioneered by folks like Dr. Nina Kraus. As I suggested at the start of this blog entry, let us learn to sing our way into reading fluency.

Next Week

The Missouri Reader will be publishing its fall issue next week. As most of my readers know, I am the co-editor of that publication. So next week’s blog will discuss our newest edition. It includes articles from a wide range of views, including one from Timothy Shanahan and another from Laura Robb. So until next week:

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.