Latest dispatches from the reading wars

I feel as though I am doing the hokey pokey. I will teach my first university elementary literacy classes this spring and have only entered into exploring our “literacy wars” in the past two-three months. Every time I think I have a grasp on what is “right”, my understandings shift again.
Ultimately, I still feel that early elementary teachers MUST be competent at phonics instruction AND at creating literacy- and context-rich learning environments that are culturally-sustaining (to use Earnest Morrell’s term). Upper elementary and beyond need to be able to identify gaps in functional literacy AND be culturally-responsive.
But I’m still reading, viewing, thinking, and considering.

Filling the pail

Sarah Mitchell, the New South Wales education minister has announced the roll-out of a phonics screening check across NSW public schools in a robust article in theSydney Morning Herald with the headline, “The reading wars are over – and phonics has won.” Great News. The phonics check is no panacea – and nobody is suggesting that it is – but we have found it very useful at my place and the findings of the pilot conducted in NSW this year are encouraging.

Mitchell makes the following point that made me wince as I imagined a few ‘balanced literacy’ advocates opening up their morning paper:

“Vice-chancellors need to take a broom to these faculties and clear out the academics who reject evidence-based best practice. A faculty of medicine would not allow anti-vaxxers to teach medical students. Faculties of education should not allow phonics sceptics to teach primary teaching students.”


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Published by Kirsten Pomerantz

I tend to have my fingers in a number of projects and my mind on even more ideas and questions. No one besides me should be blamed for any of the things I share here. I am about to hit the 20-year mark in married life, have three teenage sons whom I adore and are my inspiration and touchstones, and have lived in North Idaho for 18 years now. I love this region, even with its complicated politics, and honor and thank the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and its people who have lived here since time immemorial. It is my hope to be a part of (re)building and co-creating a shared sense of the every-day wonder of this place that is the watershed of the Spokane Valley and Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. I am awed by the adjacent Clearwater watershed and look forward to many, many days and nights exploring and appreciating these majestic waters and lands.

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