An interview of Dr. George Hruby about the Sciences of Reading PART TWO: Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

An interview of Dr. George Hruby about the Sciences of Reading PART TWO: Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

This is the second half of a two-part interview. For anyone who may have missed the first part, here is the introductory information about Dr. Hruby.

Some may remember when Dr. George Hruby first posted his video entitled What the Phonics is the Science of Reading. The video was an instant hit on YouTube, garnering over 12,000 views. In it, Dr. Hruby pushed back on the notion that the science around literacy instruction is settled. Instead, he makes a strong case for the existence of the Sciences of Reading (Sciences with an s). That way of looking at things counters much of the misinformation and misdirection being made by proponents of the so-called Science of Reading. As P.D. Pearson has said, the term settled science is an oxymoron. The claims by some SOR advocates that it’s all settled science are problematic at best. You’ll find more information about this video later in the blog.

Let’s fast forward to today. Dr. Hruby had so much great information to share that I decided to split our interview in half. This week I am posting the 2nd half of the interview, where he will tell us all about the YouTube video and also talk about the article he co-authored about the politicization of phonics in the United States

Here is some information about George Hruby and his background:

Here is a link to the YouTube interview:

Here are the Talking Points and Questions from the 2nd half of the interview:

Mary Howard made some wonderful notes about part two of the interview. Here is a link to those notes LINK.

As a bonus- here are her notes for part one as well. Thanks to Mary for doing these and letting me share them: LINK to part one.

Link to the YouTube Video


Excerpt from the abstract and link to the article:

“After summarizing the politicization of phonics in the United States, we critique a legislated training course for teachers in Tennessee as representative of how a phonics-first ideology is expressed polemically for political purposes. We contrast it with a more collaboratively developed, balanced, nonlegislative approach in the previous governor’s administration.”

My thoughts about Part Two:

During the interview, Dr. Hruby details his concerns about marketing that promotes lopsided approaches to reading because they are the most lucrative thing (as opposed to things that would help kids).  Is this an accurate assessment? Consider this article from the International Dyslexia Site outlining how and why they created a new term, “structured literacy,” to “sell their product.” The article’s author is a political consultant who led the adoption of advanced targeting techniques in campaigns. At the time he wrote this article, he was the president of the IDA. LINK

Is Dr. Hruby against the need to use research to guide our practices? No. Quite to the contrary, he indicates he first and foremost believes in using the science, all the sciences, all the research. I believe we’ve now come to the point where the overzealous marketing of one group’s brand of SOR has resulted in things that are hurting the literacy world.  For instance,  working programs are being banned LINK. The needs of many children are being ignored LINK. Information about the NAEP test scores simply does not support the stories being told in social media about the total failure of all that has come before SOR LINK. For me, all this is a clear case of going from one extreme – a very heavy emphasis on meaning-based approaches, to the other, – a very heavy emphasis on phonics-based approaches.

That is where I began this journey five years ago, calling attention to the fact that going from one extreme to another has always resulted in pendulum swings. I think Dr. Hruby echoed that sentiment during the interview.  As I said in my first blog post on this topic LINK,  it’s time to try something that has never been tried before in the history of reading instruction. Let’s try staying in the middle for a while.

I’ll end with this thought. NO MORE STRAWMEN FROM EITHER SIDE. When folks at the extremes use strawmen/misinformation, it means instead of the conversation focusing on folks at the center, it focuses on folks at the extremes. Let’s do our level best to stop using dichotomies.  Dichotomies don’t help anyone LINK.  Let’s use common sense to find some common ground. Let’s start talking more about things that we can agree on, like the need for both phonics and meaning in our literacy programs.  Let’s provide each child with the direct teaching of the kind of phonics that will benefit them the most.  Let’s also directly teach the kind of comprehension strategies that will benefit them the most.  I’ll end with a screen capture of one time when that already happened. It is a screen capture from my blog critiquing Amanda Goodwin’s article, where she wrote about the process used during the creation of the two special editions of the Reading Research Quarterly LINK. Those two editions provide a complete look at the Science of Reading. The quote makes the best case I’ve ever seen for taking a centrist stance. By the way, here is the link to the two issues she was talking about LINK. Those issues include ideas from all sides. That is the way it should be.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the guy in the center taking flak from all sides)

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

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