Coming Soon To A Screen Near You

Some of you know that I gave a talk in Atlanta last week that created some, um, friction. It presented under poor conditions and wasn’t recorded properly. I have re-recorded it. It should be available via the Atlanta Speech School soon. Here are the slides. Update: talk is here. I took advantage of the opportunity … More Coming Soon To A Screen Near You

Don’t Stop Believin’

Recently people on the Internet have asked whether I “believe in the science of reading”.   Funnily, I’ve never been asked this before. I’ve devoted my professional career to using scientific methods to investigate reading, language, learning, and other questions. I made a conscious decision to use this approach to address questions that interest me. I … More Don’t Stop Believin’

The “science of reading” is a work in progress

In the past month I’ve given two talks that are the beginning of a concerted attempt to address some issues about connecting reading research and educational practice to improve literacy outcomes. Connecting research and educational practice is essential. The ongoing effort to make this happen (which I’ve called the “science of reading movement”) is a … More The “science of reading” is a work in progress

Sondheim on reading

Well, not exactly. But he did say something that captures an important element of  learning to read. Terry Gross of Fresh Air is running three shows in remembrance of Mr. Sondheim. In a 2010 interview, Terry asked him a hoary question: which comes first, the music or the lyrics? His answer yielded a small gem. … More Sondheim on reading

Running starts in reading

My post about the Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) curriculum takes issue with their emphasis on “word solving,” the use of a variety of strategies to figure words out. I mentioned “get a running start,” taking it as representative of strategies that are inefficient and unreliable. Re-reading the post I wondered whether “get a running start” … More Running starts in reading

Clarity about Fountas and Pinnell

Fountas and Pinnell have written a series of blog posts defending their popular curriculum, which is being criticized as based on discredited ideas about how children learn to read. (See Emily Hanford’s post here; EdReports evaluation here, many comments in the blogosphere.) The question is why school systems should continue to invest in the F&P … More Clarity about Fountas and Pinnell

New article in American Educator

Teaching reading to African American children: When home and school language differ, an article Mark coauthored with Dr. Julie Washington, is now out in the summer issue of American Educator. The article includes a discussion of African American English and its influence on reading, as well as recommendations for teaching … More New article in American Educator

Mark’s responses to the chat from our Reading Meeting with Dr. Nadine Gaab

We hope you are enjoying our Reading Meetings, we certainly are! We especially appreciate the people who join us live and those of you who share your advice and pose interesting questions in the chat. Our goal is for these meetings to be responsive to your needs and so it really helps us to know what our audience is thinking about. After our last meeting on early literacy screening with Dr. Nadine Gaab, Mark took some time to respond to some of the questions and comments that were posted in the chat … More Mark’s responses to the chat from our Reading Meeting with Dr. Nadine Gaab

Some context on context

Let’s talk about ”background knowledge.” The term refers to things a child knows about the world–about people, events, and situations; categories such as animals and clothing; topics such as animal habitats and how plants grow. These are things we use language to talk and write about. This knowledge provides the “background” or context for understanding a text.
Unsurprisingly, there are differing views about the role of background knowledge in early reading. … More Some context on context

Lost in Translation?

We (Mark, Matt Cooper Borkenhagen, and Devin Kearns) have a new paper about the science of reading and education, to be published in an issue of the journal Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ) devoted to this topic. The title is “Lost in Translation? Challenges in Connecting Reading Science and Educational Practice”.

Some of you will want to read the paper. It isn’t very technical but it is nonetheless written mainly for the people who read articles in RRQ. With that in mind, we (my colleague Molly Farry Thorn and I) will be breaking down the major topics in a series of blog posts here. We are also going to cover some important issues that didn’t make it into the paper, e.g., efforts to seek legislative remedies for low literacy.

What’s this new paper about? Here’s the abstract … More Lost in Translation?

This is why we don’t have better readers: Response to Lucy Calkins

Lucy Calkins has written a manifesto entitled “No One Gets To Own The Term ‘Science Of Reading’”. I am a scientist who studies reading. Her document is not about the science that I know; it is about Lucy Calkins. Dr. Calkins is a prolific pedagogical entrepreneur who has published numerous curricula and supporting materials for teaching reading and writing to children. She is among the most successful, influential reading educators in this country. According to an EdWeek survey published this week, hers is among the 5 most commonly used reading curricula in the country.

The purpose of the document is to protect her brand, her market share, and her standing among her many followers. Dr. Calkins is not interested in examining the educational implications of reading science. She is interested in co-opting the term so that the science cannot be used to discredit her products … More This is why we don’t have better readers: Response to Lucy Calkins

The plural of “anecdote” is …

Every scientist has heard the adage, The plural of anecdote is not “data”. Anecdotes have scientific value—they can reveal new phenomena before they’ve been systematically studied—but they’re not facts.  They are nonetheless often treated as such, especially if several seem to make a consistent point.* Twitterer Sara Pikelet wittily observed that anecdotes are “small batch … More The plural of “anecdote” is …

Teacher qualifications: Raise the bar, remove the bar

New K-5 teachers are underprepared for the job. There are exceptions, of course, but most programs leading to teacher certification/licensure are grossly inadequate. There’s a deeply entrenched belief that how to teach can’t be taught, and so it isn’t. Teachers are left to learn on the job, which isn’t optimal for them or for their … More Teacher qualifications: Raise the bar, remove the bar

Ambiguity strikes home

“A low-income family will be less able to buy books and more likely to live in a neighborhood with fewer public libraries, which serve larger populations and contain fewer books that are in worse physical condition than those in middle-class areas.” That’s from p. 116 of my book, but what does the part in bold … More Ambiguity strikes home

Decline of Reading, 1957

Concerns about literacy levels in the US and distractions of other technologies are not new. Here’s an amusing illustration: In the late 1950s, Mike Wallace, the late television journalist, hosted a TV interview program that was just like “Charlie Rose” except that it was live and sponsored by Phillip Morris cigarettes, which Wallace chain-smoked on camera. One … More Decline of Reading, 1957

Teachers failing? Not in my book

Contrary to a headline that sometimes appears over an interview with me in The Atlantic, this is what the book says (more than once): “I must also emphasize that my concerns [about how reading is taught] focus not on teachers—their integrity, commitment, motivation, abilities, effort, sincerity, or intelligence—but rather on what they are taught about … More Teachers failing? Not in my book

Teachers aren’t failing students, the people who teach them are.

First coverage of the book, in The Atlantic, which has done a very good job covering education issues for many years. Headline on article is fine: but when you paste the URL, sometimes it comes out like this, which is wrong: Book doesn’t blame teachers at all. It’s the people who teach the teachers who are failing. … More Teachers aren’t failing students, the people who teach them are.