Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
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Reading

    The correct and best way to teach children to read is through phonics -- direct, intensive, systematic phonics. The research support is now overwhelming.

    Nonetheless, your child's teacher in an Illinois school most likely graduated from an ed school where emphasis on phonics is actively discouraged and denigrated. In fact, ed schools teach lessons on how to reply to parents who ask about phonics. (The most common answer, by the way, is to tell parents that the school's reading program uses a "balanced" approach.) Arm yourself by reading some of these links to get started...

  • Thank You, Whole Language: A long-time Illinois Looper observes the effects of Whole Language in his everyday life, in a very personal and powerful essay.

  • Special Report:
    The Rockford Reading Disaster
    :
    A poor inner-city school in Rockford, Illinois gets stellar reading scores after switching to Direct Instruction, only to be crushed by a new superintendent who is dedicated to fuzzy theory instead of results.

  • Detecting "Whole Language": Software publishers find it very easy to say, "It's easy to use." It makes purchasers happy. Schools find it very easy to say, "We teach phonics." And that makes parents happy.
        But how can you detect when a school is merely giving lip service (no pun intended) to phonics, and is actually devoted to Whole Language? When one parent contacted the Illinois Loop about trying to sleuth out what a "reading consultant" was actually promoting, we asked a recognized expert in reading instruction. Here is this expert's observations and suggestions.

  • A major battlefield in the war over reading instructions has blossomed in New York City. Since Michael Bloomberg became mayor of New York City in January 2002, he has slowly brought the city's school system back into centralized control. But in January 2003, , a change was made that has terribly important implications for the kids of New York. Diane Ravitch has written a thorough and engrossing report (click for the report) on the history of this change, and its current implications. Here's an important excerpt:
    As part of his plan, the mayor announced that he would install a "standardized curriculum" for schools in which large numbers of students have not met state standards. Of the city's 1200 schools, only 200 will be free to select their own curriculum, while the rest must use the programs selected by Klein and Lam. On January 21, the chancellor announced that he had selected "Everyday Math" and "Month by Month Phonics" as the "standardized curriculum" for those hundreds of schools.
  • Mary Damer writes in response to the change in New York. Click to read on the battle for phonics in Illinois, and what it should teach New York. We battled "phony phonics" here, and now the same battle is starting in New York. Mary starts, "What's happening right now in New York City is so tragic that I want to cry..."

  • Visit an area school where kids are really learning how to read, despite having a large percentage of minority students in a lower income area. What's the secret to their amazing success? Phonics taught by Direct Instruction. Read A little bit of heaven in Illinois: reading in a small school by Mary Damer.

  • Does your child's teacher know how to teach phonics? Here's one more comment from a reading expert in Illinois: "The special education program at NIU is one of the only (possibly the only) courses in Illinois that teaches intensive phonics to prospective teachers."

Illinois Standards for Reading

  • In a special report in the Spring 2008 issue of American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), the AFT scored Illinois' English standards:
    • The Illinois English standards DID NOT MEET criteria at the Elementary level
    • The Illinois English standards DID NOT MEET criteria at the Middle school level
    • The Illinois English standards DID NOT MEET criteria at the High school level

  • American Federation of Teachers has called Illinois English standards "vague," "not clear" and "weak". The AFT says, "The [Illinois] English standards ... are not clear about the content [students] should learn." The AFT also says the English standard's coverage of reading basics and writing conventions is "extremely broad" and "fail to provide clarification." The AFT says that "treatment of different writing forms is also weak across all levels ... The standard provides no guidance on the writing elements students should learn." The AFT describes the Illinois standards as offering "vague reading basics and writing conventions" at both the elementary and middle school levels. Read more on the AFT review of Illinois standards.

  • It's a mixed review for Illinois in the Fordham Foundation's "State of State English Standards 2005", which gives a grade of "B" to Illinois.

    As good news, the Fordham review says, "Both sets of standards [the Illinois "learning standards for English, and the "Reading, Writing, and Research Assessment Frameworks"] are clear, specific, and measurable. They are coherently organized, with subcategories that articulate meaningful increases in academic expectations over the grades. Benchmarks are included for vocabulary development from the middle grades on, and almost all areas of the English language arts and reading are addressed adequately, if not very well, at all educational levels. The standards also specify the study of American literature in the high school grades."

    But Fordham also warns, "However, without standards pointing to key authors, texts, literary periods, and literary traditions that serve to outline the substantive as well as formal content of the secondary school English curriculum, it is not possible for these standards to lead to uniformly high academic expectations for all Illinois students. Indeed, they are more likely to lead to inequities in the different ways in which teachers and assessors interpret them. Illinois needs to craft some content-rich and content-specific standards, drawn from classical, British, and American literature -- broadly conceived -- that outline the substantive content of the English curriculum from grade 7 to grade 12."

Assessing Reading Skills

Can Your Child Read?

  • Dr. Elaine McEwan-Adkins, a noted education writer and former administrator in the Chicago area, has a wealth of helpful information on her website. She lists these warning signs of a possible reading problem:

      Signs that a child has reading problems include
      1. guessing at words rather than decoding (sounding them out) with automaticity and fluency
      2. memorizing printed text after hearing it read aloud many times and then "pretending to read"
      3. attempting to memorize every word with frequent seeming lapses in memory
      4. reading (both silently and orally) in a slow and labored style which interferes with comprehension
      5. avoidance of any task which requires reading
      6. poor or non-existent understanding (comprehension) of written material
      7. referral to Reading Recovery, Title 1, or special education.

  • Reading Assessment: Teachers' Opinions Versus Standardized Tests by Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus, San Diego State University

  • Here's a quick phonics-based reading assessment that you can administer at home:

Tests of Reading Ability

How To Teach Reading


    From "PartiallyClips" by Robert Balder, posted with special permission. Thank you, Rob!


  • AFT On The Issues -- Every Child a Reader: The Importance of High-Quality Reading Instruction, American Federation of Teachers. Excerpts: "It is estimated that 85 to 90 percent of students who are poor readers -- including many now classified as learning disabled -- could increase their reading skill to average levels with this type of intensive, early instruction delivered by skilled teachers. Research also shows that the use of decodable text -- books and materials containing a high proportion of new words that adhere to phonetic principles students have already been taught -- can help young students at the pre-primer and primer levels to master decoding skills and increase speed and fluency. For the vast majority of students, much of this can be accomplished before the end of first grade, enabling them to tackle the vast array of interesting and challenging children's literature that can help expand vocabulary and increase background knowledge and comprehension.
       "It is for these reasons that the AFT believes that all students must be guaranteed a carefully crafted approach to the teaching of reading that reflects the latest research on successful reading intervention. This must include early, systematic and explicit instruction in phonics; an early emphasis on listening skills, language development, conceptual and vocabulary development, storytelling and writing; exploration of rich and challenging children's literature; and literacy-related activities that can enhance children's love of books and of learning. Standing in the way of this goal are two obstacles. First, most instructional staff in elementary schools have never been provided with sufficient preparation on how to teach reading in a way that reflects what is now preponderant research evidence. And second, few materials and programs based on this research have been developed or field tested for effectiveness."

  • University of Oregon: Big Ideas in Beginning Reading:
    The University of Oregon is highly respected among education reformers for the quality of its research into how children learn, leading to its support for direct, intensive and systematic methods of instruction. This website on reading is a rich yet clear source of infomation on methods of reading instruction. They say, "This website is designed to provide information, technology, and resources to teachers, administrators, and parents across the country. Big Ideas in Beginning Reading focuses on the five BIG IDEAS of early literacy:

    The website includes definitions and descriptions of the research and theories behind each of the big ideas, describes how to assess the big ideas, gives information on how to teach the big ideas including instructional examples, and finally, shows you how to put it all together in your school." To help find what you need on this website, they offer a site map that is one of the clearest we've seen on any website!

  • National Right-To-Read Foundation:
    This is a terrific source for extensive information about research in reading, descriptions of phonics approaches, evaluations of specific reading curricula, and much, much more. Here are just a few highlights:

  • What to Look For in a Quality Reading Program, Center for Education Reform. This includes a list of "Reading Best Bets," reading programs that have been shown to be highly effective.

  • National Institute for Literacy: Partnership for Reading:
    NIL is an independent federal agency focused specifically on literacy. Some of its most recent publications are being developed under the "Partnership for Reading" project of the NIL, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Department of Education:

    • Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read (PDF document). This booklet summarizes for teachers what researchers have discovered about how to teach children to read successfully. It describes the findings of the National Reading Panel Report and provides analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness; phonics; fluency; vocabulary; and text comprehension. Each section suggests implications for classroom instruction as well as other information.
    • Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read (PDF document). This brochure, designed for parents of young children, describes the kinds of early literacy activities that should take place at school and at home to help children learn to read successfully.

  • "Fighting Like C-A-T-S and D-O-G-S", Chicago Tribune, March 3, 2000. This is a good introduction to the phonics vs. whole language debate, written from an Illinois perspective. One of those interviewed in the article is Susan Hall. Here is an excerpt:
    "Hall, co-author of 1999's Straight Talk about Reading, says any talk of a truce in the reading wars is premature. 'I'm not confident,' she said. 'That's not what I'm seeing in the classroom. In California and Texas and a handful of other states, there has been some improvement. There's been leadership. But other places? Well, in Illinois, we have a long way to go. The problem ... is that teachers' colleges often still train teachers in whole language, or provide so little phonics instruction that teachers are not equipped to convey it to students. ... Even if everybody agreed tomorrow on phonics, the next question would be, 'OK. So what do we do?' The real task is to retrain teachers to put this in effect in classrooms. It's a huge, overwhelming task. ... At many Illinois schools, a committee of teachers and principals selects the textbooks. Those teachers obviously are influenced by how -- and how much -- they were taught about how to teach reading.'"

  • Parents Push For Better Reading: To Get Their Kids Help, They Organize, Advocate by Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 1999. "In the past, parents were content to let the latest educational strategies trickle down from university labs to state conventions to district offices to classrooms. Now, the parents are the ones attending the national conferences, testifying before state legislatures, buttonholing the clinicians and sharing their findings at the local level. ...
         "'The latest information doesn't have to come through that education filter anymore,' said Susan L. Hall, a Long Grove mother and president of the Illinois chapter of the International Dyslexia Association. 'In fact, we're leap-frogging over the traditional system altogether.' It would be easy to dismiss this grass-roots movement as Volvo-driving, Evian-swilling, Prada-toting fast-trackers fretting over whether Junior is Princeton-bound, but participants transcend race, geography and income. What they share is an unshakable belief that institutional change - when it occurs at all - moves at a glacial pace. By the time new practices seep into the classroom, it may be too late to help their children. So they have little choice but to hammer the point home themselves.
         "'There's a lot of frustration out there,' said Louisa Moats, a project director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Interventions Project who is contacted regularly by parent groups. School districts are often linked to the status quo by a wide range of factors, from politics to publishing ties, Moats said. 'They have a point of view they hold dear. even if it's not always informed,' she said. ...
         "Hall even has co-authored a book (Straight Talk About Reading) with the Washington-based Moats and is a regular at invitation-only symposiums to provide the parent perspective. Hall's quest began when her son, a 1st grader in Wilmette, labored with the written word. 'I was told, 'Don't worry, he'll catch up. It's just a developmental lag,'' she said. But her intuition told her not to wait."

  • Ravinia Reading Center:
    This center in the Ravinia area on the North Shore has helped many struggling readers become effective readers through solid phonics training and continuous assessment. On their website, founders Holly and Frank Shapiro provide several good articles on understanding reading problems:

    • The Struggle to Read: A good intro on the difficulty of coming to terms with early reading difficulties.
    • Reading Fluency: "When you hear children read aloud and there is a slow, staccato, and halting quality to their reading, we say that the child lacks fluency. At schools, teachers may say that a child is doing fine when he or she is reading grade-level books with a reasonable degree of accuracy. However, reading isn't functional when it's simply accurate. Those accurate words may have come with effort. Fluency is when children read words without a trace of effort. Speed and accuracy together equal fluency."
    • FAQ on Reading: This describes Ravinia's approach, but also gives good advice on reading programs and methods in general.

  • Greatest Classroom Catastrophe In 50 Years, Daily Telegraph [UK], December 2, 2005. "The abandonment by teachers of the traditional method of teaching reading, known as phonics, precipitated the greatest educational catastrophe of the past 50 years. Their steadfast refusal to re-introduce the method, in the face of overwhelming evidence of sharply falling reading standards, represents the greatest educational betrayal of the past 20 years, reducing the life chances of an estimated four million children. Yesterday's carefully worded but withering report by Jim Rose, a former chief inspector, accepted instantly and in its entirety by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, should finally draw a line under this shocking example of the profession's capacity for collective pig-headedness and self-delusion."

  • Is Phonics "Killing Us Softly"? There is an article circulating online called Captives of the Script: Killing us Softly with Phonics that is getting quite a few links and references from other sources. Dave Ziffer, one of the Loop's original founders, wrote a response to this article as a letter to its author. Excerpts from key points in the article:

    • "Your subhead suggests that you are doing a 'critical analysis' when in fact you are doing no analysis at all"
    • "You advance the preposterous and thoroughly discredited notion that literature immersion is the key to successful reading. ... Let's see -- how about if we teach guitar by handing everyone a guitar and, with no practical instruction in technique, sit around and listen to someone else play?"
    • "You present the failures of the teacher (her bad attitude and her inability to get all of the children to respond) as if they were inherent failures of phonics instruction."
    • "You convey the impression that there is some external, villainous force compelling school districts to adopt phonics programs ... Apparently it does not occur to you that the compelling force behind these political initiatives might be that the public wants them."

  • It's also enlightening to read Dave Ziffer's comments on the International Reading Association the Whole Language fan club with the deceptively pleasant name.

  • The Challenges of Learning to Teach Reading by Louisa Cook Moats. This is an important excerpt from the AFT report, "Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do." Excerpt: "Teaching reading is a job for an expert. Contrary to the popular theory that learning to read is natural and easy, learning to read is a complex linguistic achievement."

  • "Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of 'Balanced' Reading Instruction" by Louisa Cook Moats. In this document from the Fordham Foundation, Dr. Moats reveals that what's going on in many classrooms in the name of "balance" or "consensus" is that the worst practices of whole-language reading instruction persist, continuing to inflict boundless harm on young children who need to learn to read. How and why that is happening -- and how and why such practices are misguided and harmful -- are the subject of this report. You can view the html version, or download a PDF version.

  • A Whole Language Catalogue of the Grotesque by Martin Kozloff, Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina, September 12, 2002. "Following are quotations from leaders in whole language--along with commentary. ... Without exception, the quotations assert ideas that are false, contrary to scientific research, and pernicious in their destructive effects on children. The quotations show a relentless (and a near hysterical) rejection of the commonsense (and research-supported) ideas that (1) children generally need a lot of help learning hard skills, (2) the job of teachers is to teach, and (3) with respect to reading, most children need to be taught systematically and directly which sounds go with which letters, so that children can accurately and easily 'decode' words rather than simply guess at them."

  • A Better Way to Teach: How One School Achieved Success By Bucking Its District's Favored Approach (PDF) by Katherine Esposito, Wisconsin Interest, 2005, Vol. 14 No. 2. Excerpt: "[One student] is a case in point. 'She's in fourth grade, and she can't even read. ... She's been in Reading Recovery, and Title 1, and SAGE [all supplementary programs], but I don't think she can read all the months of the year. And it just breaks my heart.' [Her teacher] frets that the girl will fail upcoming fourth-grade tests. 'What's that do to this kid? She's a wonderful sweet kid. Her mother and father are just scraping to get by, and they're just praying that their kids are safe each day. That's all that they can do.'
         If the girl had attended Lapham Elementary, a kindergarten-through-second grade school on the east side of Madison, chances are that she would not be struggling. ... Six years ago, in 1999, Lapham bucked the Madison district's reliance on a reading program known as 'Balanced Literacy" -- a 'Whole Language' spin-off -- in favor of a grounding in explicit phonics for nearly all first-grade students. The results have been impressive. They have also been ignored. ... Lapham's innovative approach employs a curriculum known as Direct Instruction: SRA Reading Mastery. It differs from Whole Language, which is based on a belief that kids can incidentally learn the connections between letters and sounds if they're immersed in a literature-rich environment. By contrast, Direct Instruction begins by teaching children the sounds of letters and then moving on to letter blends, words, and sentences. The Madison district had incorporated phonics into its methods and renamed it 'Balanced Literacy,' but critics claim it is still not sufficient.

  • Direct Instruction: A Quiet Revolution in Milwaukee Public Schools (PDF) by Leah Vukmir, Wisconsin Interest, 2002, Vol. 11 No. 2

  • Direct Instruction and The Teaching of Early Reading: Wisconsin's Teacher-Led Insurgency (PDF) by Mark Schug, Richard Western, and Sara Tarver, WPRI Report, March 2001 (Vol.14 No.2)

  • Teaching Decoding (PDF file) by Louisa C. Moats, American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), Spring/Summer 1998. There is now broad consensus that fluent, accurate decoding is central to skilled reading. But this renewed attention to phonics won't amount to much unless it is taught well. We must avoid the problems found not only in whole-language approaches to phonics but also in traditional phonics programs.

  • Resources on issues in reading instruction, assembled by Dr. Martin Kozloff

  • Direct Instruction and the Teaching Of Early Reading (PDF file): A comprehensive study of the success of using Direct Instruction for the teaching of reading, and also a detailed look at teacher and administrator attitudes and biases about teaching methods. The message that comes through loudly is that DI is singularly powerful in teaching reading, but that vested interests actively fight better teaching methods despite the overwhelming evidence.

  • Dr. Kerry Hempenstall is an internationally recognized authority on reading methodology and Direct Instruction methods. He is on the faculty of the Department of Psychology and Disability Studies, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, but he has consulted on numerous projects in the United States and elsewhere. Here are some references to materials made available by Dr. Hempenstall:

  • A Direct Challenge by Debra Viadero, Education Week, March 17, 1999: "When an independent research group evaluated the research backing up 24 popular school reform models this year, it found two surprises. The first surprise was that only three programs could point to strong evidence that they were effective in improving student achievement. The second surprise was that Direct Instruction, a program long scorned by many educators and academics for its lock-step structure, was one of them."

  • Reading is harder with interactive, manipulation books:
    Mindful of Symbols: Educational Ramifications by Judy S. DeLoache, Scientific American, August 2005. ( Full article here.) Excerpt: "A very popular style of book contains a variety of manipulative features designed to encourage children to interact directly with the book itself -- flaps that can be lifted to reveal pictures, levers that can be pulled to animate images, and so forth.
        "[We] reasoned that these manipulative features might distract children from information presented in the book. Accordingly, we recently used different types of books to teach letters to 30-month-old children. One was a simple, old-fashioned alphabet book, with each letter clearly printed in simple black type accompanied by an appropriate picture--the traditional 'A is for apple, B is for boy' type of book. Another book had a variety of manipulative features. The children who had been taught with the plain book subsequently recognized more letters than did those taught with the more complicated book. Presumably, the children could more readily focus their attention with the plain 2-D book, whereas with the other one their attention was drawn to the 3-D activities. Less may be more when it comes to educational books for young children."

  • Imaging Study Reveals Brain Function of Poor Readers Can Improve, press release from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), April 19, 2004. Excerpts:
    "A brain imaging study has shown that ... effective reading instruction not only improves reading ability, but actually changes the brain's functioning so that it can perform reading tasks more efficiently," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. ... The study appears in the May 1 Biological Psychiatry and was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health. ... The research team was led by Bennett Shaywitz, M.D., and Sally Shaywitz, M.D, of Yale University. ...
    "In all, 77 children between the ages of 6 and about 9 and 12 took part in the study. Of these, 49 had difficulty reading, and 29 children were good readers. Of the 49 poor readers, 12 received the standard instruction in reading that was available through their school systems. The remaining 37 were enrolled in an intensive reading program based on instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics.
    "In the study, the 37 poor readers in the intensive [phonics] reading program outpaced the 12 poor readers in the standard instruction groups, making strong gains in three measures of reading skill: accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. These gains were still apparent when the children were tested again a year later. Moreover, fMRI scans showed that the brains of the 37 formerly poor readers began functioning like the brains of good readers. Specifically, the poor readers showed increased activity in an area of the brain that recognizes words instantly without first having to decipher them.
    "The intensive reading program the 37 children took had strong components in phonemic awareness and phonics. Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to identify phonemes, the individual sounds that make up spoken words. ...
    "Beginning in the 1970s, NICHD-funded researchers learned that developing a conscious awareness of the smaller sounds in words was essential to mastering the next step in learning to read, phonics. Phonics refers to the ability to match spoken phonemes to the individual letters of the alphabet that represent them. Once children master phonics, the NICHD-funded studies showed, they could make sense of words they haven't seen before, without first having to memorize them. Further NICHD-supported research found that instruction in phonemic awareness was an essential part of a comprehensive program in reading instruction that could help most poor readers overcome their disability."

  • I Can Read!: In Chicago's western suburbs, David Ziffer for several years operated a very effective after-school program to teach kids how to read, "I Can Read!" His website features several excellent articles relating solid phonics instruction to other proven educational methods. Here are some examples: For more info and other articles, visit "I Can Read!"

  • 95% Group: This is the consultancy and education development company of Susan L. Hall, a recognized expert and author on reading education. Susan Wilmette resident until she experienced how her own first grader was being taught in the local public school (Central School). She moved to Long Grove, transferred her child to a school with a strong academic emphasis and that used educational methods that were solidly based on reseach rather than rhetoric, and got very active in educational issues. She has a master's from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from National-Louis University.

  • Would your children receive better reading instruction at a school in a small, rural Illinois town than they would in your Chicago suburb with high property taxes and lavishly funded schools? Read Dave Ziffer's report, "Direct Instruction at Davenport School in Genoa, Illinois."

  • Dr. Elaine McEwan on reading

  • Defining Whole Language by Samuel Blumenfeld, August 27, 2002. "The other day, I received an e-mail from a lady in California who asked, 'What on earth is the whole-language system?' ... Fortunately, the answer is easy to give, because whole-language professors have been quite open in defining what they mean by their pedagogic philosophy. So I shall quote some salient passages from their writings."

  • "Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret..." -- does this disprove the importance of phonics? Read what some reading experts have to say!

  • "National Reading Panel Reports Combination of Teaching Phonics, Word Sounds, Giving Feedback on Oral Reading Most Effective Way to Teach Reading": This important April 13, 2000 release from the National Institute Of Child Health and Development announces, "In the largest, most comprehensive evidenced-based review ever conducted of research on how children learn reading, a Congressionally mandated independent panel has concluded that the most effective way to teach children to read ... includes teaching children to break apart and manipulate the sounds in words (phonemic awareness), teaching them that these sounds are represented by letters of the alphabet which can then be blended together to form words (phonics), having them practice what they've learned by reading aloud with guidance and feedback (guided oral reading), and applying reading comprehension strategies to guide and improve reading comprehension."

  • NICHD Reading Research Offers Crucial Data for Educators by Evelyn Peter, President, Reading and Language Arts Center.

  • Read By Grade 3

  • Texas Alternative Document (TAD)

  • An excellent article and update on phonics versus whole language, their use and impact in schools:

  • Evaluating reading programs: From Lisa Leppin, here are some recommendations on sites for evaluating reading programs:

  • This British website offers some useful tips on teaching reading, especially within the context of homeschooling: Educate your Dyslexic Child at Home

  • See Dick Flunk, by Tyce Palmaffy, Policy Review, November-December 1997. Subtitle: "The evidence is overwhelming that kids with reading problems need phonics-based instruction. Why aren't educators getting the message?"

  • How The Schools Wage War On Boys by Margaret Wendt, Globe and Mail (Canada), February 27, 2003 "The boy problem is the hottest cottage industry in education. Everyone's worried about the boys. They're behind at every level. ... If you're searching for a root cause, here it is. Boys are flunking out because the schools don't teach them how to read. Instead, they diagnose them with learning disabilities (at a much higher rate than girls). Or they hope the boys will pick it up sooner or later. Then they pass them on from grade to grade until they drop out in frustration."

  • The "Crayola Curriculum" by Mike Schmoker, Education Week, October 24, 2001. "We may have the reading crisis all wrong. It may have far less to do with the "reading wars" than we presumed. I am convinced that the following explanation is, without doubt, the least recognized but most salient explanation for why there is a reading gap between rich and poor, for why so many kids reach upper_elementary and middle school with less than even minimal ability to read and make sense of text. The explanation is both simple and shocking. ... I found myself touring a school [and] I went from being puzzled to astonished by what I saw. ... the [classroom] activities themselves seemed to bear no relation whatsoever to reading, the presumed subject being taught at the time."

  • Read more about "the Crayola Curriculum".

Comprehension "Strategies"

  • Reading Strategies: A Little Goes a Long Way by Daniel T. Willingham, August 28, 2008. "Mustn't the reader apply comprehension strategies to extract meaning from the text? The short answer is that teaching students comprehension strategies does help, but too much time is currently devoted to them. ... The National Reading Panel reviewed 205 studies examining the effectiveness of teaching students reading strategies and ... There are two aspects of the data which deserve special attention because they hold implications for classroom application. First, the effects of teaching students reading strategies are weak or absent before the third grade. ... Second, when it comes to teaching students to use reading strategies, shorter programs seem just as effective as longer programs. This finding is crucial, because it ought to make us think differently about what reading strategies actually do."

  • The Usefulness of Brief Instruction in Reading Comprehension Strategies (PDF) by Daniel T. Willingham, American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), Winter 2006-07. This meaty article dissects results from 481 studies on 16 different categories of strategies. It concludes:
         "We can summarize what we know from the last 25 years of research on reading comprehension strategies fairly concisely:
    • "Teaching children strategies is definitely a good idea.
    • "The evidence is best for strategies that have been most thoroughly studied; the evidence for the less-studied strategies is inconclusive (not negative) and, therefore, there is not evidence that one strategy is superior to another.
    • "Strategies are learned quickly, and continued instruction and practice does not yield further benefits.
    • "Strategy instruction is unlikely to help students before they are in the third or fourth grade."

  • No Child Left Behind: How to Ace Those Tests by E. D. Hirsch Jr., May 12, 2004. "... our schools do not yet fully understand what they need to do to raise reading scores. Many have accepted that phonics is best taught systematically. That's a plus. But goaded by the new law, many schools are intensively doing counterproductive things like strategy exercises and test prep that can not significantly improve reading comprehension. ... In California, for example, the state has mandated that students spend at least 150 minutes each day on reading in the early grades. A great deal of this time is spent on trivial tales and on constantly repeated content-poor exercises in 'classifying' and 'finding the main idea.' ... This is a futile strategy since reading achievement depends on broad knowledge of history, science, and the arts. ... There is a way to avoid this self-defeating consequence of focusing on 'reading.' Within the long stretches of time allocated to reading, schools should start teaching a solid, cumulative curriculum that replaces the time now being devoted to trivial content and fruitless comprehension exercises."

Mislabeling Children?

    "the number of children who are typically identified as poor readers ... could be reduced by up to 70 percent"
  • Rethinking Learning Disabilities (PDF doc) by G. Reid Lyon, Jack M. Fletcher, Sally E. Shaywitz, Bennett A. Shaywitz, Joseph K. Torgesen, Frank B. Wood, Ann Schulte, and Richard Olson. Excerpts:
    "This report is about learning disabilities (LD), the most frequently identified class of disabilities among students in public schools in the United States. Despite its apparently high -- and rising -- incidence, LD remains one of the least understood and most debated disabling conditions that affect school-aged children (and adults). Indeed, many disagree about the definition and classification of LD; the diagnostic criteria and assessment practices used in the identification process; the content, intensity, and duration of instructional practices employed; and the policies and legal requirements that drive the identification and education of those with LD.
    "We take the position that many of these debates can be informed by converging scientific data. On the basis of this evidence, we contend that many of the persistent difficulties in developing valid classifications and operational definitions of LD are due to reliance on inaccurate assumptions about causes and characteristics of the disorders. Furthermore, we argue that sufficient data exist to guide the development and implementation of early identification and prevention programs for children at-risk for LD, particularly reading programs that can benefit many of these youngsters. ...
    "We estimate that the number of children who are typically identified as poor readers and served through either special education or compensatory education programs could be reduced by up to 70 percent through early identification and prevention programs."

  • Lost for Wurds by Geraldine Bedell. "When her eight-year-old son was diagnosed with reading difficulties, Geraldine Bedell discovered a whole industry of bizarre treatments and cures for dyslexia, now said to affect one in five schoolchildren. But some experts have found an old-fashioned remedy - and it's as simple as ABC."

  • How schools use the "learning disability" label to cover up their failures by Lisa Snell, Reason Magazine, December 2002. Excerpts:
        "The handmade flashcards were not helping my nephew Clayton. My sister Linda confided: 'He's not reading. We practice, but he can't remember the words the next time. He gets frustrated.' Although it seemed overwhelming, Clayton's problem was fairly simple. ... Clayton wasn't connecting the letters to the sounds they represent. ... Compounding the problem, Clayton's kindergarten teacher was giving him word lists to memorize, failing to recognize that he didn't know the basic letter sounds. She kept sending home new lists even though he hadn't learned the words on the previous ones."
    The last line:
        "Linda took responsibility for teaching Clayton the relationship between letters and sounds, and by the end of the school year he had jumped from a 1 to a 3 (on a scale of 1 to 4) in his kindergarten reading classification. It's the sort of success that could be far more common if schools focused on teaching kids to read rather than diagnosing their disabilities."

  • Special Education a Failure on Many Fronts by Richard Lee Colvin and Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1999 "Tens of thousands of students in California's special education system have been placed there not because of a serious mental or emotional handicap, but because they were never taught to read properly. ... Leading research now shows that the reading problems most of those students suffer from could have been reduced, or even avoided altogether, had they received systematic, intensive instruction as early as kindergarten in how letters represent sounds and how letters go together to form words--the basis of phonics. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, explicit lessons in phonics were downplayed across the country, and especially in California. The reduction in such lessons contributed to a steady rise in the number of students identified as learning disabled, state officials now say."

The Crisis in Reading and Literacy

  • The American Literacy Tragedy by Paul E. Peterson, Hoover Institution Weekly Essay, November 11, 2002. "Americans barely reach the international literacy average set by advanced democracies, according to a report issued by the Educational Testing Service after looking at the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) ... Among the oldest group in the study (those aged 56-65), U.S. prose skills [were] second place [across the countries studied, but] as the years go by, the United States slips down the list. Americans educated in the sixties captured a Bronze Medal in literacy, those schooled in the seventies got 5th place in the race. But those schooled in the nineties ranked 14th. ... All signs point to a deterioration in the quality of American schools."

  • The 4th Grade Reading Gap: Actually a Vocabulary Gap? by Prof. E. D. Hirsch. Even with substantial efforts are building early literacy, by 4th grade any gains start evaporating again. Hirsch makes a very compelling case that much of this persistent gap may actually indicate a deficiency in vocabulary and a lack of a rich base of common knowledge.

  • Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge -- of Words and the World: Scientific Insights into the Fourth-Grade Slump and Stagnant Reading Comprehension (PDF doc) by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), Spring 2003. With a scientific consensus established that direct intensive systematic phonics is the best way to teach decoding, we've reached the next reading frontier: increasing reading comprehension. Among poor children, low comprehension is ruining their chances for academic success. Among all children, comprehension scores are stagnant. Convincing research tells us that key to both problems is to systematically build children's vocabulary, fluency, and domain knowledge.

  • Filling the Great Void: Why We Should Bring Nonfiction into the Early-Grade Classroom by Nell K. Duke, V. Susan Bennett-Armistead, and Ebony M. Roberts, American Educator, Spring 2003.

  • Will It Take Litigation? by Donna Garner, June 4, 1998. "As a classroom teacher myself, I hate to admit that it may take litigation to force the education bureaucracy to rid itself of damaging educational practices. ... Is it going to take the threat of litigation to force the education bureaucracy to do the 'right thing' in order to help children learn to read and write? Surely we educators are not that hardheaded, are we?"
  • Also see the section on non-fiction in our page on literature.

Reading Programs

"Reading Recovery"

    "Reading Recovery" is a reading intervention program that is used by many school districts throughout the nation and in Illinois. But is it effective? Advocates of research-based programs find little about Reading Recovery to be useful, effective or efficient. Here are some references.

  • A very comprehensive look at this program is provided by "Reading Recovery: An Evaluation Of Benefits And Costs" by Bonnie Grossen and Gail Coulter, University of Oregon, and Barbara Ruggles, Beacon Hill Elementary, Park Forest, Illinois. The authors make these conclusions:
    • The Reading Recovery data reporting system is flawed.
    • The standard for successful completion of Reading Recovery is not equitable.
    • Reading Recovery does not raise overall school achievement levels.
    • Far fewer students than claimed actually benefit from Reading Recovery.
    • Reading Recovery does not reduce the need for other compensatory reading services.
    • Children successful in Reading Recovery are often not successful later.
    • Research-based alternative interventions are more effective than Reading Recovery.
    • Reading Recovery is extremely expensive and does not save other costs.

  • Read this full report of the above for complete details.

  • A Costly Approach On How-To-Read by Dr. Kerry Hempenstall, Education Age [Austrailia], June 10, 1997.

  • Why the Silence on Reading Recovery's Standing among Reading Researchers? by Sandra Stotsky, EdNews, October 8, 2006. "Until we have more information on Reading Recovery's income, its sources of income, its influence on state legislatures and local school districts, and the role its friends played at the time the USDE and state departments of education were trying to apply the criteria embedded in the law to local school districts' choice of reading programs and assessment materials, we will lack an informed context for understanding the meaning and significance of the findings in forthcoming reports on Reading First by the Inspector General's Office."

  • Evidence-Based Research On Reading Recovery, May 20, 2002. This letter, signed by over 30 Ph.D's and M.D.'s, starts by expressing "concern over the wide spread use of an educational approach whose claims are not supported by the scientific evidence. The letter has been sent to policy makers, educational leaders and researchers and federal research organizations who are increasingly being called upon to either support the use of Reading Recovery or to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the program before Congress." The letter goes on to summarize key research findings and provides references."

  • One school district in California discovered that, "SAT 9 test scores indicate first grade students who successfully completed ... Reading Recovery, on average, scored lower than the control group of non-participating students."

  • Illiterate and Unhappy by Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2000. "Reading Recovery is a very expensive remedial program for first- graders who have trouble reading. ... This remedial program ... can cost more than sending a child to school for a year. ... Worse, it doesn't work well. [Studies] also found that, despite trendy educators' belief that fluffy programs improve children's self-esteem, Reading Recovery kids' self-esteem suffered. Synopsis: It costs a bundle, it doesn't turn poor readers into good readers and it makes little kids feel bad."

  • An April 1998 study funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education declared Reading Recovery "an ineffective intervention program for transforming early failing readers into independent readers. ... Fully 96% of children who completed the program were not 'recovered' and were about a year behind their fellow students."

  • Worst of all, in Columbus, Ohio, which is the home of Reading Recovery, the school board recently recognized that something else was needed. Investors Business Daily said this: "Reading Recovery [is] a remedial reading program that packages an old, failed education theory as a new, expensive failed education theory. ... The Columbus Board of Education has announced it will spend $282,240 to hire Sylvan Learning Systems to train public school teachers to teach reading using phonics."

Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) / Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)

  • Drop Everything and Read ... But How? For Students Who Are Not Yet Fluent, Silent Reading Is Not the Best Use of Classroom Time by Jan Hasbrouck, American Educator (American Federation of Teachers), Summer 2006. "Methods labeled 'sustained silent reading' (SSR) or 'drop everything and read' (DEAR) became commonplace in schools across the country. ... Of course, not all educators got swept up in the excitement around SSR and DEAR; some questioned if devoting this much time to unassisted, independent reading and writing could really be beneficial for all students. What about those students who struggle with basic reading skills and who may not use their silent reading time well -- either wasting time by doing little to no reading or writing, or trying to read materials that cause frustration because they are too difficult? As it turns out, such concerns are justified."

  • Questions About Reading Instruction, Partnership for Reading. "The [National Reading Panel] suggested that sustained silent reading during class time without time set aside for instruction in the numerous skills associated with reading may not be a productive way to spend valuable class time. It is important to note that the Panel did not discourage teachers and others from encouraging students to read more on their own outside of class time."

Who's Teaching the Teachers?

  • What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading--and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning, National Council on Teacher Quality, May 2006. In this groundbreaking report, NCTQ studied a large representative sampling of ed schools to find out what future elementary teachers are--and are not--learning about reading instruction. The report, the most comprehensive of its kind, determined that education schools are ignoring the principles of good reading instruction that would prepare prospective teachers how to better teach reading. View the Executive Summary or Full Report.

  • Teachers Learn Dated Methods by Greg Toppo, USA Today, May 22, 2006. "Most U.S. undergraduate teacher-education programs give prospective teachers a poor foundation in reading instruction, according to a new study by a Washington-based non-profit group that is working to reform the nation's teacher-education system. The report, released on Monday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, looked at coursework and textbooks used at 72 leading colleges of education and found that most use what the council considers outdated, discredited approaches to teaching reading -- especially for underprivileged children. Kate Walsh, who heads the council, says teachers' colleges and education reformers have 'an enormous ideological difference about what they think is important to teach new teachers.'"

  • What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning (Executive Summary) (PDF), National Council on Teacher Quality. In this groundbreaking report, NCTQ studied a large representative sampling of ed schools to find out what future elementary teachers are--and are not--learning about reading instruction. The report, the most comprehensive of its kind, determined that education schools are ignoring the principles of good reading instruction that would prepare prospective teachers how to better teach reading. The Full Report is also available.

  • Why Reading Teachers Are Not Trained to Use a Research-Based Pedagogy: Is Institutional Reform Possible? (Word doc) by Sandra Stotsky, Northeastern University, paper presented at the Courant Initiative for the Mathematical Sciences in Education, New York University, October 2, 2005. From the abstract: "Reading instruction is one of the very few areas where it is not the case that 'more research is needed.' Educational policy makers already have the theory and the evidence supporting it to guide the implementation of effective reading programs from K-12. In fact, they have had the theory and the evidence for decades. The central problem they face in providing effective reading instruction and a sound reading curriculum stems not from an absence of a research base but from willful indifference to what the research has consistently shown and to a theory that has been repeatedly confirmed."

  • Who Teaches the Teachers? by Lynne V. Cheney, Weekly Standard, Aug. 9, 1999. Excerpt: "As the textbooks used in many ed schools clearly show, what we really have all across the country is a situation inimical to making classrooms function more effectively. Colleges of education, long criticized for teaching trivia, are now doing something much worse: sabotaging the best efforts of reformers to get schools to use methods that work."

  • Why Reading Scores Still Lag: Ed Schools Resist Mandates To Teach Phonics: Investors Business Daily, June 2, 1999

  • How Psychological Science Informs the Teaching of Reading by Keith Rayner, Barbara R. Foorman, Charles A. Perfetti, David Pesetsky, and Mark S. Seidenberg, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 2, No. 2, November 2001. Excerpt: "The greatest continuing problem of the public schools is their failure to teach many children how to read. ... Poor reading skills stem in large part from faulty teaching practices. In particular, teachers fail to systematically teach new readers how to 'sound out' words, i.e., they fail to teach phonics. Without decoding skills, many children stumble, guess, acquire bad reading habits, and get discouraged.
    Following World War II, the 'whole-word' teaching method was popular. Also called the 'look-say' approach, it taught reading by using repetitious materials that emphasized 50-100 words, e.g. 'Run, Spot, run' from the famous Dick and Jane series. Phonics was an add-on, not an essential.
    In more recent years, a teaching method that minimizes both decoding and repetition became popular. Called 'whole-language' (or 'literature-based instruction' or 'guided reading'), it stressed student interest and enjoyment. It used so-called 'embedded phonics' and worked even less well than the 'whole-word' approach."

  • Teacher colleges shun best way to teach reading, USA Today, May 17, 2000: Start of article: "Imagine what would happen if the nation's medical schools ignored the latest scientific breakthroughs when training tomorrow's doctors. Hospitals would have to spend their time and money training new physicians themselves, or deny patients state-of-the-art treatment. Sound far-fetched? Not when it comes to scientific breakthroughs in education. In fact, many of the nation's teacher colleges think nothing of ignoring compelling new research that confirms the importance of using phonics to teach reading."

  • Phonics Foot Draggers, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1999. Excerpt: "Change is hard in education, as in other professions. That's why too many teachers still cling to the so-called whole language method of reading instruction, even though the approach--which assumes children will pick up reading if exposed to a rich reading environment--has rightly fallen from favor as the primary method of instruction. ... Scientific research on how children learn to read supports the primacy of explicit, step-by-step phonics instruction, which teaches the relationship between letters and sounds. In spite of that, intransigent support for whole language continues in schools and in college teaching programs. It also continues in defiance of new state and school district policies."

  • Direct Instruction making waves by Elizabeth Duffrin, Catalyst Chicago, September 1996: an interesting and balanced article on the battle between Direct Instruction supporters and the mainstream Whole Language orthodoxy in Chicago Public Schools including bastions of WL such as Erikson Institute.

  • "Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do" -- This report from the American Federation of Teachers stresses the importance of a solid phonics base in the teaching of reading. Contrary to the Romantic, naturalistic theories of the whole language crowd, the AFT emphasizes that "Learning to read is not natural or easy for most children. Reading is an acquired skill." In a recap of key research findings on reading, the AFT starts off with a solid case for phonics:
    "Well-designed, controlled comparisons of instructional approaches have consistently supported these components and practices in reading instruction:
    • Direct teaching of decoding ...
    • Phoneme awareness instruction
    • Systematic and explicit instruction in the code system of written English ...
    The AFT report then spends a number of pages reviewing why teacher preparation programs are so deficient in teaching new teachers about the most effective methods in teaching reading. Overall, the AFT provides a gentle and authoritative view that solid phonics instruction is vital, effective, and thoroughly documented in research. The AFT also criticizes naturalistic theory-based methods, with a conclusion that is deliberately frank:
    "Although surrounding children with books will enhance reading development, a 'literature rich environment' is not sufficient for learning to read."
  • Prometheus Was a Woman by Dr. Martin Kozloff, November 2004. Excerpt: "I'm blessed with two or three heroes in my graduate classes every semester. They don't know they're heroes, and if I told them so they'd blush from top knot to shoe sole. If southern, they'd say, 'Aw, shuuucks. Ah ayum nawt.' Missy (not her real name, but she looks like she could be a Missy) is a southern girl from the sticks. Thin. Purty. Intense. ... She's seen rural poverty up close, and she doesn't fool easy. She's teaching first grade in the school SHE went to. Those kids are her kids. ... Missy don' bah them treacly slogans and goofy progressive 'practices.' She knows you must teach kids every one of the reading skills. 'Hey, they ain't gonna jist pick 'em uuup. Whah thayet's curaazy.'"

Comprehension

    Comprehension Depends on Knowledge

    The Spring 2006 issue of American Educator from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) comes down firmly and emphatically in arguing for background knowledge as the crucial precursor to comprehension. The series of articles in this AFT publication, with a powerful lead article by E. D. Hirsch, does a fine job in stressing how important it is for kids to be taught a rich, substantial body of knowledge, which will not only boost comprehension, but make it much easier to acquire further knowledge down the road.

  • Knowledge: The Next Frontier in Reading Comprehension by the Editors, American Educator, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Spring 2006. "[B]est-selling author and scholar E.D. Hirsch, Jr., says ... we're thinking about reading comprehension in the wrong way. ... And until all of us in education -- publishers, colleges of education, researchers, teachers, administrators, and policymakers -- begin to think about it differently and, therefore, go about improving it differently, reading comprehension won't improve ... Cognitive science research is making it increasingly clear that reading comprehension requires a student to possess a lot of vocabulary and a lot of background knowledge. Writers of materials aimed at general, educated audiences (i.e., newspapers, novels, entry-level college textbooks) assume background knowledge and vocabulary on the part of their readers. No amount of reading comprehension 'skills' instruction can compensate for that lack of knowledge."

  • What Do Reading Comprehension Tests Measure? Knowledge! by E. D. Hirsch, American Educator, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Spring 2006. "Consider the predicament of schools and students under the current accountability arrangements. What are educators to do? It becomes logical to think like this: The tests are coming. ... The tests will probe reading comprehension skills, so we must teach those skills. How does one prepare students to take this kind of test? Logic has led schools, districts, states, and companies that provide test-prep materials to believe that they must train students in the kinds of procedures elicited by the test: Clarify what the passage means, question the author, find the main idea, make inferences about the passage, study the meanings of words, consider which event in the narrative comes first, and which next. But in fact, this preparation is not mainly what students need."

  • How Knowledge Helps: It Speeds and Strengthens Reading Comprehension, Learning—and Thinking
    by Daniel T. Willingham, American Educator, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Spring 2006. "Acquiring knowledge does for the brain what exercise does for the body: The more you learn, the better your brain functions. Knowledge is not only cumulative, it grows exponentially. So, the more you know, the more easily you learn new things. Knowledge improves your ability to remember new things, and it actually improves the quality and speed of your thinking."

  • The Usefulness of Brief Instruction in Reading Comprehension Strategies by Daniel T. Willingham, American Educator, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Winter 2006-07. "The simple conclusion from this work is that strategy instruction improves comprehension. ... It appears that reading strategies do not build reading skill, but rather are a bag of tricks that can indirectly improve comprehension. These tricks are easy to learn and require little practice, but students must be able to decode fluently before these strategies can be effective. ...
         "So how do students understand what they read? Understanding individual sentences ... does not pose a problem for a proficient decoder, provided he knows the vocabulary and has sufficient background knowledge. But, relating sentences to one another does pose a challenge, and it is essential for reading comprehension. ... Consider these three sentences [about a statistical procedure] ... Unless you have some background in statistics, you won't feel that you have a rich understanding of the paragraph's meaning. How does one get a rich understanding? By relating what you are reading to other material that you already know."

What Else We Lost on September 11

    Education reform, starting with a revolution in teaching kids how to read, was intended to be a cornerstone of the Bush administration. But the terrorist attacks of September 11 left America with even greater priorities.

    To read about what happened at a Florida school on that day, here is What Else We Lost on September 11 by Kevin Killion.

Books

Quotes on Reading

    From our extensive collection on education quotations, here are the entries on reading:

      "Our system fails to teach children many fundamental skills like reading, and then inappropriately identifies some of them as learning disabled."
      -- Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education

      "A new study by the National Research Council shows ... nearly one in eight students are now labelled as 'disabled.'"
      -- School Reform News, April 2002

      "If my school district is wasting about $7 million per year because classroom teachers do not know how or do not like to teach kids how to read with methods and programs that we know work from the get-go, how much do you think is being wasted worldwide?"
      -- Lisa Leppin, "High cost of poor reading instruction", July 6, 2000

      "Widespread uses of Direct Instruction would directly benefit children and parents [and] decrease the need for remedial reading programs in the state. Potential cost savings [could] yield savings of [as much as] $107 million."
      -- Mark Schug, Richard Western and Sara Tarver, "Direct Instruction and The Teaching of Early Reading". Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), March 2001 (Vol.14 No.2) (available as a PDF document)

      "Accuracy is not an essential goal of reading."
      -- Ken Goodman, guru of whole-language

      Literature

      "Children who know only superheroes will find real heroes boring or incomprehensible, and when they come to maturity, if they ever do, it will be without the formerly natural habit of wishing to emulate their heroes. How do you emulate Harry Potter?"
      -- James Bowman

      "In other ages the attention of children was held by Homer and Virgil, among others, but by the reverse evolutionary process, that is no longer possible; our children are too stupid now to enter the past imaginatively."
      -- Flannery O'Connor, 1963

      "An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth -- scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in television, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, the comics, and many books -- might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it and through constant repetition many of them finally get it. What kind of society could we create if, instead, we drummed into them science and a sense of hope?"
      -- Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World



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