Reading War II is still raging as reading experts attack a New York Times story on Madison’s decision to reject federal Reading First funds in order to continue a reading program that the Times claims is effective. Education News prints as-yet unpublished letters to the Times from Reid Lyons, Robert Sweet, Louisa Moats, Linnea Ehri and Joanna Williams, Timothy Shanahan and Mark Seidenberg. Professor Moats, formerly co-investigator of the NICHD Early Interventions Project, a five-year, federally funded study of reading instruction in high-poverty schools, points out that the Office of Management and Budget “recently gave the Reading First program its highest (and unusual) rating of effectiveness.”
. . . there is overwhelming scientific consensus that comprehensive reading instruction, as required by Reading First, should include the components named in the legislation, including (but not limited to) phonics. Like the issue of global warming, there is no scientific debate about whether children benefit from direct instruction in how the alphabetic code of English represents speech. There is, in contrast, plenty of evidence that teaching children to guess at words through context and pictures is, indeed, malpractice, and that most poor readers fall by the wayside early because no one is teaching them how to read. Richard Allington, who was quoted in opposition to Reading First, has no credentials as a researcher or scientist. He and the “reading community” to which he refers have perpetuated myths and ineffective practices associated with Whole Language for decades â€“ and look at what those have brought us. Contrary to the article’s data, in a search of Madison’s reading achievement scores we find that 45% of African-American children in that city are not proficient readers. After all, they were eligible for Reading First!