Showdown on the Kansas Plains
The Reading Wars Continue
Keywords:science of reading, reading wars, teacher education, balanced literacy, structured literacy
The question of how children learn to read and how they can best be taught, has gained a significant amount of interest over the years. Cognitive research confirms there is a science-based approach to reading instruction. It provides answers to the decades-old question about how children learn to read and what is the best approach to teach them. Educational policy and practice has been slow to reflect the latest research regarding the science of reading. Instead, the field has been plagued by polarizing “reading wars” that have continued to widen the gap between research and beliefs regarding how children learn to read. As Kansas adopts the science of reading for the public school curriculum and begins the process of educating teachers, administrators, teacher educators, and other stakeholders, there will undoubtedly be misconceptions, and even cognitive dissonance, as personal beliefs about reading are challenged. The purpose of this article is twofold: 1) to inform the reader of the “great debate” or “reading wars” that have raged for several decades, and 2) to provide a better understanding of the conceptual shift needed to move us from a balanced literacy approach, as the best way to teach reading, to structured literacy. After decades of cognitive science research, structured literacy is now emerging as the most effective way to teach children with diverse reading abilities.