We Have a National Reading Crisis
What are the reading research insights that every educator should know?
By Jared Myracle, Brian Kingsley, & Robin McClellan
https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019 ... 4a94bc4fb3
If your district isn’t having an “uh oh” moment around reading instruction, it probably should be. Educators across the country are experiencing a collective awakening about literacy instruction, thanks to a recent tsunami of national media attention. Alarm bells are ringing—as they should be—because we’ve gotten some big things wrong: Research has documented what works to get kids to read, yet those evidence-based reading practices appear to be missing from most classrooms.
Systemic failures have left educators overwhelmingly unaware of the research on how kids learn to read. Many teacher-preparation programs lack effective reading training, something educators rightly lament once they get to the classroom. On personal blogs and social media, teachers often write of learning essential reading research years into their careers, with powerful expressions of dismay and betrayal that they weren’t taught sooner. Others express anger.
The lack of knowledge about the science of reading doesn’t just affect teachers. It’s perfectly possible to become a principal or even a district curriculum leader without first learning the key research. In fact, this was true for us.
Here are five essential insights supported by reading research that educators should know—but all too often don’t:
*Grouping students by reading level is poorly supported by research, yet pervasive. For example, 9 out of 10 U.S. 15-year-olds attend schools that use the practice.
*Many teachers overspend instructional time on “skills and strategies” instruction, an emphasis that offers diminishing returns for student learning, according to a Learning First and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy report this year.
*Students’ background knowledge is essential to reading comprehension. Curricula should help students build content knowledge in history and science, in order to empower reading success.
*Daily, systematic phonics instruction in early grades is recommended by the National Institute for Literacy, based on extensive evidence from the National Reading Panel.
*Proven strategies for getting all kids—including English-language learners, students with IEPs, and struggling readers—working with grade-level texts must be employed to ensure equitable literacy work.
Some may characterize this national dialogue as reopening the “reading wars,” which pitted phonics against whole language. Frankly, we don’t see it. We don’t frequently hear educators in our districts vigorously defending whole language, as such. More often, they’re simply doing what they believe to work, without knowing better. Instead, we primarily face a battle against misunderstanding and lack of awareness.
For example, some express fears that phonics instruction comes at the expense of students engaging with rich texts, yet every good curriculum we know incorporates strong foundational skills and daily work with high-quality texts. The National Reading Panel got it right: Literacy work is a both/and, not either/or.
The battle against misunderstanding can be won by pairing professional learning with improved curriculum. Quality curriculum that is tailor-built to the research makes good practice tangible and achievable for teachers. Professional development around implementation of such high-quality curriculum is where it all comes together: Teachers are given the what to use, and professional learning explains the why and the how of those materials.