More thoughts about the social media version of Science of Reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

More thoughts about the social media version of Science of Reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Last week’s blog about pushing back on the social media version of Science of Reading was well received. It had well over 4000 views in less than a week. It seems that there is a great deal of interest in the centrist point of view about reading. That view differs sharply from the views presented by some of the social media gurus, including Emily Hanford and Karen Vaites. My blog made the case that the story being told by these social media pundits is incomplete and misleading. Remember that both these folks are, first and foremost, public relations people. They are adept at making the best case for their product. In this case, that product is something called structured literacy. Unfortunately, part of the way they are making their case for selling this product is by claiming the issues around the current discussions about how to teach reading are all settled science. I must respectfully beg to disagree. Some researchers say it is all settled. Louise Moats is chief among the researchers making this claim. However, there are many well-known, well-respected, well-published researchers that say otherwise LINK, LINK, LINK LINK. In addition to those researchers mentioned earlier, P.D. Pearson has also levied some major criticisms of what was being said in the press and on social media LINK. Recently he posted this:

Remember that Pearson was the architect of the idea of teaching using the gradual release of responsibility. That is the I do (teacher demonstrates), we do (teacher partners), and you do (student internalizes the information/strategy). This makes the student responsible for their own learning. Nell Duke and others used that model to improve students’ reading performance by teaching comprehension strategies using gradual release. Duke has several decades of research demonstrating that doing this significantly increases reading scores. Yet, based on the work of Willingham, some SOR advocates are saying to reduce the time spent teaching reading strategies. There is an apparent division within the SOR world on this point. For instance, Shanahan has questioned whether drastically reducing the time spent teaching comprehension strategies is wise. Read his blog post entitled The Spirit is Willingham, but the Flesch is Weak. In addition, Shanahan has questioned the notion of putting phonics first. See his blog post entitled What do you think of “phonics first” or “phonics only” in the primary grades?. My overall point here is that it is not settled science, and taking the pronouncements of the social gurus as undisputed fact is not merited. In fact, some researchers are saying that those pronouncements are actually harmful LINK.

This week, I’ve gotten several pieces of good advice for improving the Talking Points document. I’ll be incorporating those into version 2.0 of that document. I expect that it will be ready early this summer. I’ve also come across several more good sources of information about the discussions about the best ways to teach reading. I wanted to share those with you now.

Helen Prouix posted this on Twitter this week:

Here is what you will find if you use this LINK:

In addition to the podcasts above, they also include links to many research articles. Here is a sample:

Please note that the links in the screen captures above will not work. However, all the links shown here will work if you go to the site. I highly recommend visiting this site if you want to defend the centrist position about the Science of Reading.

Dr. Andrew Johnson has written extensively about several educational topics, including the Science of Reading and LTRs.

Here is the link to his YouTube channel. LINK. These screen captures will show you what you will find if you visit this link. BTW I’ve arranged an interview with Dr. Johnson. Be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks.

Dr. Johnson is having a webinar on April 27th. Here is a link to that webinar LINK.

Also, here is an addition to Dr. Johnson’s posts.

My Talking Points document is one page on purpose. If you want a longer document, look at this one from Crossland Literacy. With their permission, I’ve downloaded their PDF into my blog’s sharefolder LINK. You’ll find it right next to the Talking Points pdf. The screen capture below shows the table of contents for the PDF. There are many links to information that will help you defend the centrist position.

Finally, most of you are aware of the extensive writings of P.L. Thomas. Here are links to two of his most recent blogs. LINK, LINK.


Knowledge is power. By consolidating the information from around the internet into one place, I’m trying to empower those of you who feel that taking a centrist stand is the best course of action in the current reading wars. As you do. I ask you to take that stand in a way that does not use strawmen. As I’ve written many times, we need to use information from all sides LINK. We need to give students access to all forms of phonics, including synthetic phonics. We need to improve teacher training so teachers can teach students how use all forms of phonics. We need to improve teacher training so they know how to teach comprehension in a way that results in students internalizing comprehension strategies. We need to teach students in a way that results in them becoming lifelong readers and writers. We need to recognize that all forms of teaching reading have limits and limitations, even those forms that we prefer the most. If we can do that, perhaps there can finally be a Reading Evolution.

Until next week- Happy Reading and Writing.

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

Copyright 2023 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

PS 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.

PPS- Feedback on possible corrections or additions to the Talking Points document is still welcome. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at and include the word “Feedback” in the subject. I hope to complete version 2.0 by the start of this summer.

3 thoughts on “More thoughts about the social media version of Science of Reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

  1. John Cleveland

    Hi Dr. Sam,

    I found your great website from watching an interview you did with Peter Afflerbach from the University of Maryland. He was one of my professors when I was working on my M.Ed back in the late 90’s. I am currently a retired elementary school reading specialist with 21 years in that position and I also taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. I have also been following this whole SOR issue as presented by the media. Here is another story that perpetuates the misunderstanding people may have about reading instruction and what really works. This was from yesterday on CNN.

    John Cleveland

  2. D

    Here’s another one: from the United Federation of Teachers, written by Rachel Nobel, a teacher.

    “Scientists, researchers and educators have debated the key to cracking the code for decades. Most now agree on the need to focus on phonics.

    Phonics instruction has fallen in and out of favor for years, largely because it can seem scripted and rote to teachers who want to ignite students’ passion for reading — in a 2020 New York Times story, some experts fretted it could be “stultifying.” But phonics is undeniably effective: A University of Oregon College of Education report notes that “there is considerable evidence that the primary difference between good and poor readers lies in the good reader’s phonological processing ability,” a skill that is bolstered by strong phonics instruction.

    Many of the strategies we teach students today — like Skippy Frog and Eagle Eye — are based on a “cueing” philosophy of reading that was developed by psychologist Marie Clay in the 1960s.

    If you’ve ever used a running record to assess students in reading, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “MSV” cues — meaning, structure/syntax and visual. Clay theorized that children rely on these three kinds of cues to make real-time predictions about words as they read. When students come to an unfamiliar word, we in turn “cue” them by asking questions about what the word could be: What would make sense (meaning)? What would sound right in the sentence (syntax)? What clue does the picture give (visual)?

    These strategies can help children who are stuck, and they might be effective tips for students who have already mastered the basics of letter-sound correspondence. But they largely do not help children decode the words themselves — that is, do the actual work of reading.

    In fact, research shows that strategies like checking the picture or puzzling over the context takes children’s focus away from the actual letters and sounds in the word, making it less likely they’ll recognize it the next time.

    “When I work with struggling readers, I block the picture, or I show them nonsense words. I take away all the context because I want to make sure they can actually read the word itself,” says James. A comprehensive 2019 American Public Media study of the history of reading instruction asserted that “one of the most consistent and well-replicated findings in all of reading research” is that “the ability to read words in isolation quickly and accurately is the hallmark of being a skilled reader.”

    Then how do we learn to read words in isolation quickly and accurately? The real key to cracking that code lies in targeted, routine phonics instruction.

    “There are 44 distinct sounds in the English language, and there are 250 ways to represent those sounds with letters as graphemes,” says Maryse Crevecouer-Charles, an IEP teacher at PS 6 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. (For instance, the sound /k/ can appear in words as c, k, ck, que and ch.) “We need to teach that strategically.”


Let's talk! What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.