Document Type


Publication Date

June 2000


Review essay on National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction; G. Coles, Reading Lessons: The Debate Over Literacy; G. Coles, Misreading Reading: The Bad Science That Hurts Children; M. Stout, The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem; D. McGuinness, Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It. What is it about teaching reading that arouses such passions in Americans? Shall we have phonics or whole language or both? Why this debate should be so vehement in the political arena is not immediately obvious. Nor is it obvious why the issue is so important that George W. Bush, for example, has been running television ads prominently featuring phonics, as though it were a topic as central to the presidency as social security, taxation, trade with China or nuclear weapons. One answer is simply that Americans are anxious about the primary skill necessary for their children's success. This anxiety requires a dispassionate answer to the critical question: How can schools best teach reading?