Sent to the New York Times, April 24
Reading is about understanding, not pronouncing
A Florida State study of twins in grades 1 and 2 claimed that "Better Teachers Help Children Read Faster" (April 22).
"Better teachers" were those whose students gained more on a test of pronouncing texts rapidly and accurately, without necessarily understanding them. Instruction that prepares students for these kinds of tests consists largely of intensive, heavy phonics. Prof. Elaine Garan of California State University Fresno has shown that heavy phonics will result in better performance on tests of "decoding" (pronouncing words) but has little influence on tests requiring children to understand what they read. Performance on tests of reading comprehension is related the amount children read, not heavy phonics instruction.
Teaching children to pronounce words quickly does not mean teaching them to understand what they read. And understanding what reading is all about.
University of Southern California
Florida State study:
Taylor, J., Roehrig, A., Soden Hensler, C, Conner, M. and Schatscheider, C. 2010. Science 23: 512-514.
Little influence on tests that require understanding:
Garan, E. 2001. Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82(7), 500-506.
Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37(4), 72-74.
Related to the amount children read:
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.