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Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert

Anne CastlesKathleen RastleKate Nation

What Teachers Need to Know for Informed Reading Instruction

By: Susan Brady, Louisa Moats

Recent research has provided a clearer picture about reading difficulties and how to prevent them. This position paper of the International Dyslexia Association argues for reform in teacher preparation to reflect these research-based understandings. Read Article 

This article is over 20 years old - why has nothing changed? 

Cognitive scientists have shown beyond doubt that fluent, accurate decoding is a hallmark of skilled reading (Adams, Treiman, & Pressley, 1997; Fletcher & Lyon, 1998; Rack, Snowling, & Olson, 1992; Share, 1995; Stanovich & Siegel, 1994; Vellutino, Scanlon, & Sipay, 1997).

Automatic word recognition, which is dependent on phonic knowledge, allows the reader to attend to meaning; likewise, slow, belabored decoding overloads short-term memory and impedes comprehension.


While this renewed interest in phonics is certainly a welcome development, we will make limited progress unless decoding instruction is grounded in what we know about the stages of reading development, the structure of the English language, and the strategies students employ to learn it.


With rare exception, classroom practice is not informed by these principles. As we shall see, problems abound not only with the approaches to decoding typically found in whole-language and “literature-based” programs but also with programs associated with traditional phonics.

Read on

SOR is often interpreted as focused solely on word reading and the role of systematic phonics instruction in supporting reading achievement, particularly for developing readers. As Alexander notes, “To see the phrase ‘science of reading’ used in such a limited and pejorative manner is bewildering.” What is important here is that the authors almost universally emphasized that narrow interpretations of SOR (often taken up by the media to make its way into practice, policies, and schools) are problematic. Taken together, the articles in this special issue suggest that SOR is both a body of knowledge (defined broadly by researchers and scholars) and an interpretation of that body of knowledge (often defined narrowly by audiences outside the academy). The authors in this special issue push back on the idea that SOR be characterized by support for or opposition to phonics instruction. Again, as Alexander writes, “The reality is that reading does not begin or end with phonics or whole-word instruction (Seidenberg, 2013). It is far broader and more complex. Reading, broadly conceived, is any interaction between a person—be it a child, adolescent, or adult—and written language (Pearson & Cervetti, 2013). That interaction can involve written language at many levels, from words and sentences, to paragraphs, to entire volumes (Shanahan, 2019). Also, reading can be performed for many reasons, from purely personal to largely academic, and in many contexts, both in and out of school, as well as online or in print.” Hence, the aim of this special issue is to impact the field by advocating for a broader interpretation of SOR that can affect policy and practice and result in curricula decisions, legislation, and even teacher licensing requirement READ ARTICLE


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