A call for rejecting the most recent reading wars


To the Editor:

Re “An organization has made thousands and thousands selling books on reading instruction rooted in bad science” (Nov. 10, 2022)

We’re educators who’ve devoted our lives to the reason behind helping children read and write with power. We’re dismayed that at this moment in our history, when all of us must be banding together to support literacy education, the podcast “Sold a Story” fans divisiveness, making a false sense that there’s a war happening between those that imagine in phonics and those that don’t. Systematic phonics instruction is important. That may be a settled issue. And essential, too, is comprehension strategy instruction, knowledge constructing, vocabulary acquisition, language development, writing process, culturally responsive teaching, emotional well-being and a spotlight to educational equity.

The “Sold a Story” podcast takes the fabricated phonics debate a step further, attacking the integrity of a bunch of educators who’ve led pioneering research and helped advance our field.

At a time when information spreads quickly and, sadly, too many vital issues have turn out to be oversimplified and polarized, it’s irresponsible to scale back the teaching of reading to phonics instruction and nothing more. To imply that other approaches will not be just unsuitable, but money-making schemes, is reckless. Teachers and students is not going to profit from biased storytelling and finger-pointing, especially when a lot is at stake.

You’ll be able to imagine within the critical importance of phonics and never agree with the unfinished story being sold in “Sold a Story,” which paints educators as naively inadequate, gives them loads less credit than they deserve and diminishes their agency.

We’re asking for the remainder of the story. The research that’s being ignored, the stories of faculty districts and educators who’ve seen incredible success using comprehensive approaches to reading instruction which might be conveniently neglected of this narrative.

And we’re asking that those that truly care about doing the true work come together and move forward in a productive way that recognizes all the weather of effective reading instruction. Let’s stop wasting our time fighting with one another and concentrate on what matters most.

Dr. Randy Bomer

Dean, College of Education, University of North Texas

Dr. Celia Oyler

Vice dean for teacher education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Dr. Laura Asceni-Moreno

Professor of bilingual education & bilingual program coordinator, CBSE, Brooklyn College

Katherine Bomer

Professor of practice within the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, UNT

Dr. Paul Thomas

Professor of education, Furman University

Dr. Timothy Rasinski

Professor of literacy education, Kent State University

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Founder and president, Curriculum Designers

Mike Matthews

President of Authentic Education

Dr. Sam Bommarito

National reading consultant

Lois Bridges

Executive director, Bring Me a Book

Elisa Brown

Principal, PS 249, winner, Blue Ribbon Schools Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership

Sandy Brown

Director of elementary curriculum, Denton ISD TX

Christopher Paul Curtis

Winner of the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award and a National Book Award finalist

Georgia Heard

Poet and creator of “Awakening the Heart,” “The Revision Toolbox” and “Falling Down the Page”

Carmen Agra Deedy

Latest York Times bestselling children’s book creator

James Howe

Award-winning creator of books for youngsters and young adults

Sarah Weeks

Creator of the bestselling novels “Pie,” “Save Me a Seat” and “So B. It”

Naomi Shihab Nye

National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award and Pushcart Award winner, chancellor emeritus, Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2019–21

Dr. Harvey “Smokey” Daniels

Creator of “The Curious Classroom,” “Upstanders” and “Literature Circles”

Dr. Cecilia Espinosa

Associate professor, Early Childhood Graduate Program, Lehman College

Michael Fisher

The Digigogy Collaborative, and Curriculum21 Faculty

Phil Daro

Educational designer

Prof. Lynne Einbender

Bank Street College of Education faculty

Dr. Lucy Calkins

Richard Robinson Professor of Literacy at Teachers College, Columbia University; founding director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

Leslie Zackman

Retired superintendent, Latest York City

Carl Anderson

Educational consultant, creator of “A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences” and “How’s It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers”

Dr. Rachael Gabriel

Professor of literacy education on the University of Connecticut

Ellin Keene

Creator of “The Literacy Studio,” “Engaging Children” and “The Teacher You Wish to Be”

Ruth Swinney

Educational consultant and creator

Dr. Daniel Friedrich

Associate professor of curriculum, Teachers College, Columbia University

Dr. Ofelia García

Professor, Ph.D. program in urban education, and Ph.D. program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures and languages, City University of Latest York

Dr. Patricia Velasco

Associate professor of bilingual education, Queens College, CUNY

Dr. María Paula Ghiso

Associate professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

Dr. Cecelia Traugh

Dean, Bank Street Graduate School of Education

Dr. Phyllis Harrington

Superintendent, Oceanside Union Free SD

Dr. Kara Hollins

Lecturer, preservice elementary inclusive program within the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University

Dr. Mary Howard

Expert in literacy, creator of “Good to Great Teaching,” “RTI from All Sides” and “Moving Forward with RTI”

Bena Kallick

Co-Director, The Institute for Habits of Mind

Penny Kittle

Teacher, creator, advocate

Laura Kotch

Retired NYC deputy chancellor

Jonathan Kozol

Creator, National Book Award winner

Dr. Heidi Mills

Distinguished professor emerita on the University of South Carolina, educational consultant

Dr. Cara Furman

Associate professor of literacy education, University of Maine–Farmington

Dr. Douglas Reeves

Creator and founding father of Creative Leadership Solutions

Donna Santman

Education consultant, creator of “Shades of Meaning”

Maurice Sykes

Creator, former executive director of the Early Childhood Leadership institute on the University of the District of Columbia

Dr. Dick Allington

Professor emeritus, reading education, University of Tennessee

Dr. Amy Tondreau

Assistant professor, elementary education, University of Maryland

Dr. Mary Ehrenworth

Senior deputy director, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

Marc Tucker

Founder and CEO emeritus of the National Center on Education and the Economy

Patricia Vitale-Reilly

Educational consultant, creator

Prof. Molly Welsh Kruger

Bank Street College of Education faculty, Reading & Literacy Program

Dr. Marjorie Siegel

Professor emerita, Teachers College, Columbia University

Anita Silvey

Creator of “Children’s Books and Their Creators” and “100 Best Books for Children”

Dr. Kylene Beers

Creator of “When Kids Can’t Read/What Teachers Can Do;” co-editor of “Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice”

Dr. Connie Briggs

Professor emeritus, Texas Woman’s University

Dr. Erika Dawes

Professor, chair of Language and Literacy Department, Lesley University

Dr. Mary K. Lose

Professor, Department of Reading and Language Arts, and director of the Reading Recovery Center of Michigan at Oakland University

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