Reading War: Will It Ever End?

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The Hatfields and McCoys do not hold a candle to the two opposing sides of America’s very real and devastating reading war that has been waged for the past 40 or more years.  The dyslexia-destructive “Whole Language” (WL) camp remains deeply entrenched discounting for 20 years the science of reading findings of the National Reading Panel Report (NRPR) released in 2000.  Those of us in the dyslexia community have witnessed the devastation brought about by the WL camp and by those who seem to be blind to the absolute need to embrace all five of the five big ideas described by the NRPR. We know that the power of  explicit, systematic, sequential phonics instruction building upon a strong phonological awareness foundation combined with vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency instruction are essential for all students.

The “three cuing method” incorporated into most programs built on a WL framework  actually teaches struggling students to look at illustrations and guess the word rather than learning to master the code!  Recently, Lucy Calkins, author of Reading Workshop and a commander in the WL camp, launched a new offensive attacking those who proclaim that the “Science of Reading” is an absolute concept.  WL advocates use a chameleon technique by changing their terminology to confuse those not in their camp.  When WL was rightly debunked in 2000, the WL leaders began to describe their products and approaches as “balanced literacy”.  It is frightening that their latest obfuscation appears to be an attempt to muddy the water regarding the “Science of Reading.”

The International Dyslexia Association has provided a valuable resource for educators and consumers regarding the most recent “battles within the never-ending reading war launched by Commander Calkins in her article entitled “No One Gets to Own the Term the Science of Reading.”