Reading & Literacy

Father of ‘Whole Language’ Rallying Against Reading-Group Speaker

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 03, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Kenneth Goodman is not known for his silence. The professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, popularly known as the father of the “whole language” method of teaching reading, has been wont to interrupt conference sessions or speak bluntly at public hearings to deride what he sees as lockstep, skills- based approaches to instruction or narrow views of reading research.

So instead of taking his seat among the guests of honor at the reading- research awards gala during the International Reading Association’s upcoming annual convention, Mr. Goodman plans to station himself at the door, along with colleagues he is enlisting in a protest against one of the keynote speakers.

To Mr. Goodman’s dismay, the 80,000-member organization has asked G. Reid Lyon, a prominent official of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, to speak at the event on the opening day of the conference, to be held May 3-6 in Reno, Nev. Mr. Lyon and the branch of the National Institutes of Health that he directs have been influential in directing federal and state reading policies that are contrary to the principles of whole language, a literature-based approach to instruction.

The work has made Mr. Lyon a sought-after speaker across the country. But in Mr. Goodman’s view, the federal official has played a role “in establishing a narrow and exclusive definition of reading research in federal and state laws and marginalizing and blacklisting researchers, research methodologies, and research paradigms,” according to e-mail postings he has made to a popular listserv for reading teachers and scholars.

‘Something Special’

While Mr. Goodman does not object to having presenters of different viewpoints participate in the conference, he wrote, the research awards event, honoring scholars committed to a broad range of research methods, is an inappropriate forum for Mr. Lyon. Dorothy Strickland, a Rutgers University researcher who is well-respected within the IRA, will also be a presenter at the awards ceremony. This year the association has also invited its past presidents—including Mr. Goodman—as special guests, although they will not have an opportunity to speak.

“Let me make clear that I do not object to Lyon or any of his associates being on the program at IRA. What I object to is how he is being showcased in this unique research context,” Mr. Goodman wrote in the online posting to “colleagues” asking them to oppose the event. “But [the association] puts us in the awkward position of further legitimating Lyon by our attendance and in the awkward position of silently listening to him as he disparages all past research on reading.”

Several other researchers and longtime supporters of Mr. Goodman have also tried to rally support for the boycott.

But officials of the Newark, Del.-based association say Mr. Lyon, as a leading voice on reading research, is the appropriate person to give an overview of progress in the field and help recognize outstanding reading research.

“We respect the right of people to express their opinions,” said IRA Executive Director Alan E. Farstrup. “Given the volatility of issues in research right now it’s certainly not surprising that there is controversy over this.”

Mr. Lyon said that while he is not likely to change Mr. Goodman’s mind, he hopes his message will resonate with the audience in general.

“When the audience hears what Dorothy and I have to say [about how research should inform reading instruction and policy], Mr. Lyon said last week, “I think the quality of the discussion will speak for itself.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Older Students Who Struggle to Read Hide in Plain Sight. What Teachers Can Do
Going back to basics may get to the root of the problem.
6 min read
Image of a seventh-grade student looking through books in her school library.
A seventh-grade student looks through books in her school library.
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages
Reading & Literacy The Key Parts of a 'Science of Reading' Transformation, According to One State Chief
Under Carey Wright's leadership, Mississippi pulled off a reading "miracle." She has a similar transformation in mind for Maryland.
6 min read
Dr. Carey Wright, the interim state superintendent for Maryland, discusses improving literacy instruction and achievement with Stephen Sawchuk, an assistant managing editor for Education Week, during the 2024 Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Va. on Friday, May 3, 2024.
Carey Wright, the state superintendent for Maryland, discusses improving literacy instruction and achievement during Education Week's Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Va., on May 3, 2024.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Reading & Literacy Teachers Are Still Teaching Older Students Basic Reading Skills, Survey Finds
Who across the K-12 spectrum engages frequently in activities that promote foundational reading skills? The answer may come as a surprise.
4 min read
Group of kids reading while sitting on the floor in the library
Zinkevych/iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on The Science of Reading in Practice
This Spotlight will help you analyze new curricula designed to build knowledge, review the benefits of reading aloud to students, and more.