Showdown on the Kansas Plains

The Reading Wars Continue


  • Sarah Broman Miller Fort Hays State University, Fort Hays, Kansas



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.

Author Biography

  • Sarah Broman Miller, Fort Hays State University, Fort Hays, Kansas

    Dr. Sarah Broman Miller has over twenty years of experience in the field of education. Prior to her work in higher education, she taught third grade in north central Kansas, owned and operated a childcare center, and taught conversational English in Japan. She received a Doctorate of Philosophy from Kansas State University in Curriculum and Instruction with a Reading emphasis. Dr. Broman Miller's areas of expertise include language and literacy acquisition, theoretical models of reading, teacher belief systems, and multicultural education practices. Dr. Broman Miller teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses and is an assistant professor at Fort Hays State University. She enjoys reading non-fiction books, walking, and spending time with her family and dogs.






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