Blog Posts

10 November, 2008

How do I select an effective phonemic awareness program?

Is there really such a thing as an effective program? Your question would be like asking a plumber, “How do I select an effective wrench?” It’s not the wrench that’s effective, it’s the plumber with a wrench, and it is the same idea with teachers and instructional programs.   However, I get your point. You aren’t looking for an “effective program,” as much as for a program that has the potential of being effective if used properly by a teacher who knows her stuff. The National Reading Panel (NRP) reviewed 52 studies that showed that explicit teaching of phonemic awareness to kindergartners ...

read more
02 November, 2008

An Open Letter on Literacy to President-Elect Obama

Okay, okay, I know. The election won't really take place until Tuesday, but let's face it, it would take a miracle to prevent Barak Obama from being elected President of the U.S. His victory celebration is supposed to attract about 1 million people to a site just a few blocks from my home, and commentators are talking about how important a quick transition is going to be this year with the economic crisis. Given all of that, I don't think it is too early to let the transition team know that literacy policy is going to this president's attention (and ...

read more
29 October, 2008

Watch Those Inferences

Recently, I received a note from someone who was agitated about their state school board. It seems the board wanted to reject the purchase of an instructional program because it didn’t teach phonemic awareness separately from phonics. The committee of teachers that were recommending the program was upset, the vendor was upset, and because of my work on the National Reading Panel I was being asked to weigh in.   Of course, I wanted to know what led the state board to think that phonics and phonemic awareness had to be taught separately. The answer was that these skills were laid out ...

read more
24 October, 2008

On Reading To Children

Okay, here is a quiz...  1. Does research show that reading to kids improves literacy? Yes or no.   If you read Jim Trelease's books, you're likely to get this one wrong. Reading to kids has been shown to improve kids' language development--and this might have a positive impact on reading--but no studies show that reading to kids improves their reading ability.... Really. 2. When you read to kids should you focus on picture books? Yes or no.   Research studies don't really tell us much about the impact of reading specific books on children's learning, but the key to having an impact on children's language ...

read more
14 October, 2008

Ten Things Every Teacher Should Know about Reading Comprehension

This week I am keynoting the California Reading Association and I plan to talk about reading comprehension. There are so many scary statistics these days about reading comprehension, and I see so much bad practice when it comes to teaching kids to think about text, that I hope this will be a timely reminder of some key ideas.   Some of the things that are scaring me:  Reading First kids are comprehending no better than other children in Title I programs.  Reading First teachers aren't teaching reading comprehension any differently than other teachers.  Instructional interventions for English language learners rarely improve their reading comprehension.  No matter ...

read more
29 September, 2008

Why Balanced Literacy is a Problem?

These days, I often hear a school’s approach to reading instruction described as “balanced.” What could be better? No one wants unbalanced literacy instruction, right? Obviously not.   But what does balance really mean? It can mean that teachers provide skills instruction but in the context of sustained silent reading, learning centers, book clubs, big book activities, minilessons and the like. In other words, it is a combination of instructional approaches that clearly make a difference in kids’ learning (as shown by research), and activities that may or may not make a learning difference (they might be good, but there is no ...

read more
07 September, 2008

Broader, Bolder Approaches to Literacy

During the summer, a group issued the so-called “Broader, Bolder Approach” (BBA) statement. It called for economic and social responses to support greater educational progress for our children. Much was made of the statement because of its obvious contrast with Bush administration education policy that mainly has emphasized the changes that schools must make. Much to the consternation of some of my friends and colleagues, I signed that statement.   How can someone square the circle? How can I support NCLB and BBA? Frankly, I don’t find it to be any kind of contradiction—not even a stretch. I have said for years that I would ...

read more
31 August, 2008

Which Reading First Idea Has the Least Research Support?

Reading First is the federal education program that encourages teachers to follow the research on how best to teach reading. The effort requires that teachers teach phonemic awareness (grades K-1), phonics (grades K-2), oral reading fluency (grades 1-3), vocabulary (grades K-3), and reading comprehension strategies (grades K-3). Reading First emphasizes such teaching because so many studies have shown that the teaching of each of these particular things improves reading achievement.   Reading First also requires that kids get 90-minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction each day because research overwhelmingly shows that the amount of teaching provided makes a big difference in kids’ learning. It ...

read more
23 August, 2008

Why Use a Textbook to Teach Reading

As a young teacher, I was aware that reading professors in colleges of education tended to be anti-textbook. They imagined a world in which all teachers would construct their own individual reading lessons every day, rather than following what they saw as the dismal guidance of the basal reader. Such views reigned during the “whole language era” (the 1980s and early 1990s) when textbooks were replaced by trade books, decoding instruction received less emphasis, and the idea that kids should just read and write rather than receiving explicit teaching (except for the occasional mini-lesson) became predominant. That was also the ...

read more
18 August, 2008

Starting Out Right: Helping Your Child Have a Successful School Year

Here we are at the start of another school year: a time of great new beginnings for many children and one of overwhelming anxiety for too many others. What can parents do to help ease their child into a successful new school year—particularly for struggling learners?   I suggest the following steps.  1. Talk to your child about school.   “What did you do in school today, Johnny?”   “Nothin.’”   Sadly, that is a pretty typical exchange between most parents and kids, and it does nothing for improving home-school relations, for making children feel supported, or for helping both teachers and kids to succeed.   As a parent and former ...

read more
Sorry! No articles found. Please select another topic or category.

One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.