How to Teach Reading – Up for grabs again

If you teach reading or are learning to teach it in teacher’s college, you need to be aware of what Robert Pondiscio calls Reading Wars II. I’ll be returning to this issue quite frequently as I have already begun to formulate responses, but please read this article to get an initial perspective.

If phonics vs. whole language was Round One of the reading wars, the new battle is shaping up to be reading strategies vs. content knowledge, says Dan Willingham at Britannica Blog.

If you teach or care about kids learning to read, please read this post. By the way, the reading theorists remind me a lot of the “mathematicians” in my earlier blog post trying to prove that 14X7 = 25. Sometimes a look away from the theory and at reality can have a big effect.

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5 Responses

  1. Andrew, is this the article you were recommending?
    http://www.coreknowledge.org/blog/2009/01/19/reading-war-ii-content-knowledge-vs-reading-strategies/

    The link in the blog post didn’t work, and this is what Google came up with.

    If this is it, then I’m not sure I’m understanding what the conflict is. True, you can’t always understand what you read without some background in the subject, but isn’t reading one of the best – or at least easiest – ways to get the background? So we teach ’em to decode, and then we give ’em lots of books, right? Or am I missing something?

    • Yes, Jenny, that’s it. Thanks. I’ll try to fix that first chance I get.

      I agree, in a way. There should not be a conflict. They tend to arise when people push one side too far. But what phonics teachers can easily not realize is how helpful it is to know what you are reading about. That is why Iteach my students to scan books before reading them (depending on the type of book they’re reading). It’s also why a liberal education helps people read in more ways than we normally realize.

      Thanks for the input!

  2. Hi,
    I tried to click on your link but the article seems to no longer exist. Do you know of it posted elsewhere?

    Thanks.

  3. oh no! I didn’t close the tag … sorry ’bout that!

  4. This is fascinating to me as I’m currently teaching a child to read. I find myself adding definitions in our “Read Aloud” books an example from today … “they wrapped mufflers, or scarves, around their necks” (Little House in the Big Woods, emphasis mine) to help with understanding and explaining a lot when we read. This is one advantage the homeschooler has; she (or he) knows what their student knows very well and can aid in comprehension.

    I had Barbara Curtis’ book Mommy, Teach Me To Read with me one day and my mom (a retired public school K-3 teacher) picked it up and read Mrs. Curtis’ comment that “phonics is the best way to teach reading. Phonics works.” My mom, of course, disagreed (hmmmm … she went to college in the early ’60s any surprise) and said they may be able to understand words, but reading comprehension is lower. I didn’t disagree with her then (I tend to keep silent, she’s anti-homeschooling) but the more I’ve thought about her reaction, the more I disagree, especially in the case of educators who use the classical technique of narration (written and oral) and who discuss works of literature. Homeschoolers have big advantages here of both fewer pupils and of not being constrained by “periods” as do school educators.

    I’ll have to go watch the video now [grin]

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