Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Defending Reading Book Over Implied ‘Collusion’

September 12, 2006 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I was dismayed by the inaccuracies in your Teaching & Learning column about my book with G. Reid Lyon, Why Kids Can’t Read: Challenging the Status Quo in Education (“Former Reading Czar Teams Up With PR Executive on Book,” Aug. 9, 2006). The article implies some sort of collusion and conspiracy and, like most conspiracy theories, is completely without grounding in reality.

First, my interest in the reading issue comes not from my work in public relations, but from my background in education. Trained as a language and speech pathologist, I have long understood the linguistic skills needed for children to learn to read, and have been frustrated by the needless failure of so many students because these skills have not been explicitly taught.

Second, the column implied that I rejected a chapter for the book because it mentioned a specific reading program, used in Success for All, that was favored by the authors of the chapter. In truth, the chapter was rejected because the authors described elements of whole language, not scientifically researched reading instruction, in their curriculum. Its inclusion would have confused readers. This book wasn’t written to promote certain reading programs. It’s about how proven, research-based reading instruction is working to improve literacy, and how parents and others are effectively demanding that schools use reading instruction that works.

Third, there was no favoritism shown to any reading program over another, as more than 10 reading programs were discussed in the book. Nor did a suggested conflict of interest exist because of the work done by a communications firm with which I am associated for the McGraw-Hill Cos. I had nothing to do with that work, did not know it existed, and in fact learned that the firm was representing only the McGraw Prize in Education at that time.

Ironically, had the facts been checked, you would have found that the firm also represented the work of Success for All founder Robert E. Slavin at that time.

There is so much work to be done to engage parents and educators in teaching our children to read, and the stakes are so high. It seems petty to focus on allegations that have no bearing on reality and only distract us from the real problems we face.

Phyllis Blaunstein

Santa Monica, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the September 13, 2006 edition of Education Week as Defending Reading Book Over Implied ‘Collusion’

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