About reading

February 17, 2020

Recently, The Washington Post published an article about the latest hostilities in the “reading wars.” I noticed it because the columnist, Jay Matthews, quoted from this blog....

January 30, 2020

Confession

I always had students who entered my fourth grade class reading significantly below grade level. And each year, when I passed them on to fifth grade, those students were still behind. I did everything I knew how to do — I taught Guided Reading lessons, provided independent reading time, found them books to love, replied to readers’ response journals- but no matter what I tried in...

January 27, 2020

Interesting question.

Before I answer, let me ask one: What keeps Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, up at night?

You know Amazon, the trillion-dollar corporation that delivers something like a 5 billion packages a year.

I’m at a professional meeting. The chair asks what “levers” we have for improving reading achievement in the U.S.

It’s an easy question. There are...

January 5, 2020

Teacher question: What do you think about “modeling” in literacy instruction?

Shanahan’s reply:

Tyler’s mom sent me a video. It was riveting.

Like many 21st century parents, she had a camera going in the nursery at naptime. And, the camera revealed something pretty cool during an afternoon nap.

Tyler was a toddler. He had...

December 18, 2019

Planning with the creative and hard-working teachers on my fourth-grade team was rewarding (and occasionally hilarious), but our enthusiasm sometimes produced overly-complicated plans. If a plan was becoming unwieldy, one of us would interrupt the process and say to the team:

If it’s this complicated, it’s probably not right.

We’d then pause, rearticulate our goals,...

December 8, 2019

It’s been a bad week for fluency instruction.

I started getting emails questioning me on whether I supported the fluency ideas that my friend Tim Rasinski was advocating. These messages seemed to fall into two categories: those who were honestly horrified that Tim would offer something beyond what they believed to be part of the “science of reading” and those who hoped to bait me into...

November 26, 2019

Thank you for writing No One Gets to Own the Term “The Science of Reading.” I am so relieved that discussion of reading science has made its way into the balanced literacy community and that you’ve added your own voice to the conversation. You’re making it safe for experienced educators to...

October 29, 2019

When I became a reading interventionist, my first graders taught me that Guided Reading isn’t as effective as I had once believed. Initially, my attention was on my readers’ “strengths.” Mistakes in reading were not problems but rather “miscues,” windows into my students’ minds and reassurance that they needed me for guidance as they read.

But as I observed my students, I noticed them...

October 7, 2019

Teacher question:

What does it mean that something has research support? I’ve been a teacher for years and I’ve taught hundreds of children to read. Now I’m being told that in our district we are expected to teach in some new way that has research behind it. I like how I teach reading and I don’t want to change. Why should I?

Shanahan's response...

September 11, 2019

Teacher guilt is a compelling topic. Of all things the ideas captured in Emily Hanford’s At a Loss for Words, the recording of me talking about my guilt has become one of the more popular snippets. Yes, I said this:

It was clear to Goldberg after just a few months of...

August 19, 2019

Last week, I posed 5 questions as the first half of the Great American Phonics Quiz. I hope you did well on those items that focused on whether students could learn to read without phonics, what kind of contribution it makes to learning, whether phonics instruction needs to be...

August 12, 2019

Schools are so tied up with testing these days, and this being the season of “monitoring assessments,” maybe a back-to-school phonics quiz would be a good way to welcome you all back.

I was having so much fun writing these test questions that I considered either putting in for a job at ETS or including a Part II next week ... I decided on the latter.

Let’s see how you do. The...

August 4, 2019

First, a little context:

I am a white literacy coach in a large urban district where half the teachers are of color. When I began my job, I believed that my focus on evidence-based reading instruction, good intentions and belief that all students can learn would make me well-equipped to bring research to our diverse staff. How naive I was! 

Entering this work, I was blind to...

July 26, 2019

Most primary-grade teachers teach phonics because we know it supports our students’ reading and spelling. And many of us also believe that if we incorporate phonics into our instruction, we are by definition not whole-language teachers; we are “balanced literacy” teachers. But whole-language beliefs are so pervasive and so entrenched in education that they continue to serve as the basis for a...

July 19, 2019

I understand why advocates, researchers, and policymakers who feel the urgency of our literacy crisis are frustrated when teachers don’t embrace reading science. But my entry into the world of reading research was difficult, and while I take pride in my determination to learn, I understand why other teachers might be deterred. If we want teachers to apply research, it may be helpful to think...

June 28, 2019

Teacher question: Dr. Shanahan, I know that you don’t support independent reading at school. However, in my graduate program we are learning that research evidence shows that kids who read the most become the best readers. I don’t get why you don’t support this research-based practice.

Shanahan's response

In grad school my statistics...

June 11, 2019

Recently, the PBS News Hour aired a report about the parents of children who suffer from dyslexia. Their kids weren’t being taught phonics and weren’t learning to read. When phonics instruction was provided, they did better, and so the moms were pressuring their state to ensure other kids wouldn’t face the same neglect. It was a classic story of public institutions (in this case schools) not...

June 3, 2019

Recently PBS News Hour broadcast a segment about dyslexia and reading instruction. In response, 57 members of the Reading Hall of Fame submitted a letter of complaint, which has since been posted publicly.

Here is a link to the PBS segment and the letter is posted in the comments section following the video segment on this site:...

May 29, 2019

Teacher question: I keep hearing that teachers don’t know the science of reading. But all the teachers that I talk to say that they teach phonics. What’s really going on?

Shanahan's response: 

I suspect that both the critics and the teachers are telling you the truth.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a national education inspectorate...

May 22, 2019

Teacher question: Although the Reading Wars might be over (somewhat), I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve entered the era of Research Wars. What’s a literacy coach to do? 

Shanahan's response:

I think you’re onto something. I’ve been seeing the same thing.

Of course, the original “reading wars” back in the 1990s were research...

Pages

"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln