April 28, 2021

Russ Walsh: Unsettling the Science of Reading Narrative

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Russ Walsh is the author of A Parent’s Guide To Public Education in the 21st Century. He blogs about reading, and in a recent post he addressed the Science of Reading debate.

Call me crazy, but when I learned I had cancer a few years ago, I did not immediately consult a journalist. Instead I chose to see an oncologist. When COVID broke out, I threw in my lot with Dr. Fauci and other infectious disease scientists, instead of a former reality TV star who suggested I inject bleach. And so, when I want advice on reading instruction, I avoid the journalists, the parent lobbying groups, the reading program sales reps, and the agenda driven pseudo-education organizations, and I look to the experts.

Two such experts, Peter Johnston and Deborah Scanlon of the University at Albany, have recently laid waste to the so called Science of Reading (SOR) in a thoughtful report written for the Literacy Research Association, An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction, with Policy Implications. I strongly recommend reading the entire report, but I would like to share a few takeaways that I think illuminate the current SOR debate. As the title of the report suggests, SOR cannot really be discussed outside of the context of the research related to dyslexia and the current push by well-organized parent and educator groups that argue that dyslexia is a frequent cause of reading difficulties. Currently 42 states and the United States government  have invoked laws enshrining dyslexia. These laws are for the most part aligned with the SOR instructional perspective. The media has famously picked up on this and has helped fuel the narrative that dyslexia is the chief cause of reading difficulty and that SOR is the best instruction not just for those identified as dyslexic, but for all students.

Walsh goes on to lay out some of the takeaways from the report. You can read the full post here.

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