The primary reference for this presentation was:
Pearson, P.D. (2004). American reading
instruction since 1967. In Preparing Reading
Professionals. Newark, DE: International
Historical Developments in the
History of Reading
CTE Outcome 1: Knowledge and
Beliefs about Reading
• Summarize seminal reading studies and
articulate how these studies impacted
reading instruction. Recount historical
developments in the history of reading.
First Third of the Century
Nila Banton Smith’s editions of
American Reading Instruction
• Control text difficulty (pre-primer-first reader, at
• Sequence vocabulary in order of decreasing
frequency of word usage in everyday written oral
• Comprehension is generally the product of
decoding and listening comprehension.
• Read stories and practice skills.
Chall(1967). Learning to Read:
The Great Debate.
• Use of critical review.
• Described prevailing “look-say” approach
of the mid 1960’s
• Instruction begins with meaningful silent
reading of stories grounded in children’s
experiences and interests.
• After a corpus of sight words learning (50-
100), analytic phonics instruction should
begin. Phonics should be regarded as one of
many cueing systems including context and
picture cues, available to children to unlock
• Phonics instruction should be spread over
several years rather than concentrated in the
• Phonics instruction should be
contextualized rather than isolated from
read words and texts.
• The words in the early texts (grades 1-3)
should be carefully controlled for frequency
and use and repeated often to ensure
• Children should get off to a slow and easy
start, probably through a readiness program;
those judged as not ready for formal reading
instruction should experience an even
longer readiness period.
• Children should be instructed in small
• Early attention to the code in some way,
shape, or form must be reinfused into early
• *Make a necessary change in method (early
emphasis on phonics of some sort)
• *Reevaluate grade levels (increase
• *Develop single-component tests
• Improve reading research
*basal companies made changes to address
The First Grade Studies
• What are the preferred approaches to beginning
• Use of empirical scholarship rather than just
• Funded by the Cooperative Research Branch of
the United States Office of Education.
• Published in the new journal, The Reading
Research Quarterly, 1966.
The Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, 1965
• A plank in President Lyndon Johnson’s
“Great Society” platform.
• New resources for compensatory education
to schools--Title I.
• The “National Right To Read” program.
Findings of the First Grade
• Almost any alternative elicited equal or
Significance of the First Grade
• Those who conduct research on reading
could look at other factors (e.g, the
importance of the teacher, site, other aspects
of curriculum--comprehension or writing).
• Thus, these studies set the stage for an era
of small scale studies. Move from “what
works” to “what is going on,” what happens
Changes in the Basal Reader
• Before: Phonics was a skill taught
contextually after a hefty bank of sight
• After 1967, publishers intensified,
repositioned analytic phonics that was
previously taught beginning at the end of
grade 1 in the “look-say” basals.
Last Third of the Century 1970-
• Mastery Learning (Bloom, 1968), Carroll,
• Linguistics: Transformational generative
grammars (Chomsky, 1957, 1965).
Children are members of a language
We can understand and invent rule systems
that work for them. (Goodman, 1965, 1967)
Goodman (1967) Reading: A
Psycholinguistic Guessing Game
• Construct meaning from text.
• Use three cueing systems: syntactic,
semantic, and graphophonemic.
Smith (1971) Understanding
• Reading as a natural process.
• Role of the teacher
• Value meaning making in reading
• Create and use texts with natural language
for early readers; they can use their
knowledge of language to predict.
• Errors are windows into the child’s mind.
• A theory of reading as a constructive
process with links between oral and reading
• Extend constructs such as human purpose,
intention, and motivation to other
psychological phenomena (e.g, perception,
attention, comprehension, learning,
memory, and executive control of all
Contributions of Cognitive
Schema: Theory about the structure of human
knowledge (Rumelhart, 1980)
What do children know?
What is it that they do not know?
Sociolinguistics of the 1980’s
• Context is not just what is around the print
on the page.
• Reading occurs in a context, a literacy
Reader Response Theory
• Rosenblatt (1938, 1976) The Reader, the
Text and the Poem.
Other Perspectives of the 1980’s
• Literature-based reading Atwell (1987) In the
• Process Writing Calkins, (1986), The Art of
Teaching Writing; Graves (1983) Writing
Teachers and Students at Work
• Integrated instruction (reading, writing, listening,
speaking) Holdaway (1979) The Foundations of
• Whole Language
Casualties of Whole Language
• Skills instruction
• Strategy instruction
• Emphasis on text structure
• Reading in the content areas
New Experimentalism mid-1990-
• Reliable, replicable research, large samples,
• Emphasis on the code in early stages of
learning to read. (Adams, Juel)
• Changing research ideology
Modeling the Reading System:
(Adams, 1994, 2004, p. 1225)
Policy and Reading: “No Child Left Behind”
What are some of the possibilities?
• Paradigm of basic skills or a hybrid that
weds integrated instruction, authentic texts
and tasks with earlier traditions.
• Riding the natural swing of the pendulum.
A More Balanced, Ecological
• Focus on early reading, emphasis on the code with
no particular approach singled out.
• Respectful to the entire range of research in the
• Respects the wisdom of practice.
• Respects professional history; we learn from each