• Balanced Literacy,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Wars

    How Love Became a Weapon in the Reading Wars

    When I read almost any article about education, I cannot help but be struck by the language that is used—and not used—to discuss the goals of schooling. Teachers, for example, are almost invariably described as teaching students to love reading, or to get excited about reading—not to actually read, or to read well, or to become more reflective or thoughtful readers. The emphasis is squarely on the emotion surrounding reading rather than on the act of reading itself, or on the intellectual development it entails.   It seems to me that this has become such an accepted way to speak about education that its presumable implication—that obviously, yes, loving to read…

  • Ed School,  Reading Wars,  Uncategorized,  Whole Language

    The Detachment of Literacy from Reading

    In a 2017 interview with Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter, the cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg (author of Language at the Speech of Sight) described the transition from discussions of “reading” to ones of “literacy” in education circles over the last few decades. I think that by now, the use of the latter term is now taken entirely for granted, but it’s not a minor point at all—it’s actually quite major, and it highlights the gap between public perception of the issues at play and the reality of them.  I suspect that when most people hear the term “literacy,” they understand it as a synonym for “reading,” in the sense that a…

  • Phonics,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Wars

    The Misunderstanding that Sparked the Reading Wars

    I just finished reading Anthony Pedriana’s Leaving Johnny Behind, an enormously important and under-appreciated book that I discovered by chance, thanks to a post on Facebook. (Social media certainly does serve a purpose other than being a black hole of procrastination from time to time!) The author is a retired teacher and principal who, quite by chance, found himself at the center of the reading wars: in an attempt to boost the reading performance of a class that was falling behind, Pedriana went against everything he had been taught and permitted one of the teachers in his school to implement a scripted reading program for a single short lesson each day.…