Taking the middle ground in the reading wars: Reactions to last week’s post and presentation
By Dr. Sam Bommarito
The reaction to last week’s blog post and presentation about taking the middle ground in the reading wars was overwhelmingly positive. The blog post had over 1000 views. Here a couple of the many comments made around the post:
Judi said “Thanks, Dr. Sam! A voice of reason in the war zone…. a war of words and a swinging pendulum doesn’t get the job done. Too many children are losing out as we waste precious energy fighting our corner. Teach child children to read the way it works for you and for them. Learn from others, share what works and most importantly celebrate success! Grow and nurture children who will read for pleasure for the rest of their lives.”
Christina said “Yes!!! I agree completely! Thank you for posting this.”
Abagail took issue with the success I credited to some SOR folks who have helped some Dyslexic children. She gave additional facts and information that clearly demonstrate that the methods advocated by some of the SoR proponents are not even close to the cure-all they are sometimes made out to be.
“There is no data showing the structured, sequential phonics approach to be more effective for dyslexic learners than other approaches. For a summary of research status for various school-based interventions, see: https://www.dyslegia.com/evidence-based-information-resources/research-status-what-works-clearinghouse/
University researchers who have focused on developing programs for dyslexia have taken other directions, such as Rave-O program developed at Tufts University by Dr. Maryanne Wolf, which is based on comprehensive, meaning-focused word study.
Given that most dyslexic children would benefit from ANY extra help, it is probable that most dyslexic children given specialized tutoring of any kind would show some level of improvement, but dyslexic children in particular also need strong focus on reading comprehension, fluency, and sight word recognition — otherwise they get stuck in a pattern of slow, effortful decoding rather than developing the strengths that characterize older dyslexics who later become capable readers. See https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-activity-pattern-signals-ability-compensate-dyslexia “
Now I want to encourage all educators who believe there are many paths not just one, and especially those who know how well-balanced literacy has worked in many settings to push for a combination of using Common Sense and Common Practices. We’ve never ever tried letting the pendulum stop in the middle. Let’s do try and see what happens. I predict that what will happen is that many students will be helped and educators from all points of view will learn from each other. Please do share your ideas along these lines, #readingevolution1.
NEW ADDITION TO THIS BLOG- My response to the question of what to do about states that have already adopted the SoR methods advocated by some SoR folks:
“Read the information in last week’s post. Plenty of counters to the public relations campaign. Should be using them in states that have not adopted. In those that have- monitor results CAREFULLY. Make sure they are not allowed to use tests of decoding as proof of success. Their methods of doing things are likely to create at least some word callers. Make sure all state legislators are aware of the fact that word callers are a significant source of low test scores. As these problems are discussed ask that any analysis of BL to use a scientific sample of BL districts using the best of BL practices with fidelity.
On more additional response based on what DeGee said- “You really summed up things nicely when you said “What is truly needed is dedicated, educated, well-trained teachers who have on-going professional learning backed up with on-going support. These teachers need to be free to use all the resources at their disposal and all their learning to make decisions about what is best for the students in their classrooms. These teachers are the professionals and as such should be given the freedom to design lessons and interventions for their students because they know their students best.”
The push-back to their cherry-picked views has begun. They’re writing checks that I predict they won’t be able to cash. The key is that ANYONE advocating for any method must show that the method can produce improved REAL comp results. Hold ALL to that standard and I think in the long run the situation will improve. Push for methods that help comprehension as measured by state tests (see Nell K. Duke‘s work that I cited last week). an actually measure comp and do so over several years. Hope this helps.”
Next week I will start talking about some of the wonderful things I learned at the Write to Learn conference in Missouri, beginning with my thoughts about the writing ideas of Nic Stone, who I got to meet and talk with at the conference.
Until then- Happy Reading and Happy Writing.
Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, still the one in the middle willing to take flak from all sides)
Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.
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