P. David Pearson talks about various literacy issues, including Reading as a Meaning-Making Process and the educational implications of that view, PART TWO.  An Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito

P. David Pearson talks about various literacy issues, including Reading as a Meaning-Making Process and the educational implications of that view, PART TWO.  An Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Because of the length of the interview, it is being posted in two parts- this is the second part of that interview.  

When P.D. Pearson agreed to this interview, it was a career moment for me. Pearson is credited with the creation of the gradual release of teaching model LINK. That model transformed the world of teaching. In addition, his ideas around the concept of “The Radical Middle” LINK shaped my thinking around the whole topic of what it means to be a centrist. In the first part of the interview, Pearson talked about social-cultural models of reading, the gradual release model, Durkin’s research around teaching comprehension, and the importance of reading definitions in establishing reading practices. He pointed out the shortcomings of definitions used by some SOR advocates and the need for a definition of reading that clearly includes the concept of reading as a meaning-making process. In case you missed it, here is a link to the blog about the first half of the interview LINK.   

What now follows is Pearson taking an in-depth, research-based look at the remaining issues surrounding the question of how to best teach literacy in the 21st century.


Here are the timed stamped talking points for the interview (so, you can go to the sections that interest you the most first)

Here is a link to the U-Tube Interview:


  • David Pearson and Rob Tierney’s presentation on The Science of Reading: What it Means for Classroom Practices

A chapter by David Pearson, Christina Madda, and Taffy Raphael dealing with the question of balance in the days of the Science of Reading.

  • P. David Pearson & Rob Tierney Webinar LINK



Link to P.D. Pearson’s website LINK.

Links to the two special issues of Reading Research Quarterly LINK.  

The Science of Reading Comprehension- Reading Teacher, 2021, Duke, Ward & Pearson LINK

Mary Howard once again provided some excellent detailed notes on this interview. THANKS MARY. Here is the link:


Final Thoughts about this interview

I want to remind readers of what Pearson said in part one of this interview:

 “So, what have they done? They have defined all this other stuff out of reading that’s part of literacy, that’s part of learning, but it’s not part of reading. And what that does is it makes the reading curriculum a much narrower swab that I think most of us think is involved in reading.”

We must take care when making policy at the district, state, and national level that those policies are based on a definition of reading that makes it crystal clear that reading is first and foremost, a meaning-making process. If you are not reading for meaning, then you are not reading at all. In a 2021 Reading Teacher article entitled The Science of Reading Comprehension, Duke, Ward and Pearson make this statement- “However, research has supported a simultaneous, rather than sequential, model of reading instruction.” p 665, LINK. The same article points out the need for graphophonological semantic cognitive flexibility, and the fact that reading comprehension is not automatic even when fluency is strong.

Right now, a model for reading instruction that is based on a limited definition of reading and questionable practices around comprehension is sweeping the country. Phonics first (phonics only?) has been tried before with disastrous results. Read the review of the Reading First initiative LINK.  Millions of dollars were spent with very little in the way of improved reading/reading comprehension to show for it. I fear that, once again, we are on a path that will result in yet another very expensive pendulum swing.

Let’s take Pearson’s advice and think about taking positions instead of taking sides. How about starting with the thought that teachers and students need to learn to apply the phonics instruction that is best for each child?

  • I would propose that we start with synthetic phonics but have other forms of phonics waiting in the wings for those students for whom synthetic phonics fails to work. Pearson explained some of those other forms of phonics during the interview, 22:05.
  • Encourage teaching practices that result in a set for variability in both word recognition and comprehension.
  • Let’s look at all the research. That includes qualitative research. Let’s stop using strawmen to misrepresent what the other side says, 24:14.

Let’s listen carefully to folks like Pearson and Howett LINK, who actively use common sense to find some common ground. We owe it to the kids to stop the arguments and start the discussions. Dare to dream!

So, until next week:

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 views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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Join us on November 9 at 4 pm EST for a free webinar! Register today for Transformative Teaching Strategies, moderated by Dr. Sam Bommarito with panelists Tim Rasinski, Kathy Roe, and Penny Slater.  

In this special session, Dr. Sam Bommarito will bring together an exciting panel of literacy experts to discuss strategies for improving student reading comprehension, fluency, accuracy, and reading stamina. Bestselling author and fluency scholar Tim Rasinski will share some important research on fluency. Penny Slater and Kathy Roe will show how they have used Tim’s research to develop a Reading Fluency Project in the UK that has led to struggling readers achieving more than 1.5 years of growth in comprehension/fluency in just eight weeks of small-group instruction. 

Register: pioneervalleybooks.com/webinars\

In the upcoming year, I will present at LitCon in Ohio, the Wisconsin ILA Conference, the Hudson River ILA Conference and the Write to Learn Conference in Missouri. Should you be interested in having me as a speaker or presenter at a conference, please e-mail me at bommaritosam@yahoo.com. Include the word “speaker” in your subject line.

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