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[Susan notes: You don\'t have to live in Florida to be able to use this argument.]

Published in Orlando Sentinel

Phonics Not Solution To (non-existent) Reading Crisis

Gov. Bush is disturbed that 47 percent of fourth graders in Florida read below grade level ("Governor: Teacher colleges fall short," Feburary 23). "Grade level" simply means average, the 50th percentile. Thus, 50 percent of fourth graders in the US read below the national average, by definition. In Florida, only 47 percent do. This means Florida's fourth graders read slightly better than fourth graders in other states. There is no reading crisis in Florida.

Gov. Bush also thinks the answer to the (non-existent) reading problem in Florida is phonics-based instruction. This conclusion is based on the recent report of the National Reading Panel, the basis of President Bush's reading plan. I wonder if Gov. Bush is aware of the many penetrating critiques of this report. Prof. Elaine Garan's recent book (Resisting Reading Mandates) shows that according to the Panel's own analysis, children who get heavy phonics instruction clearly excel only in reading regular words in isolation. Scientific studies show that children who do more actual reading do better in reading comprehension tests. Some phonics instruction is useful for helping children understand texts, but an overemphasis on phonics is not the answer.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor
University of Southern California

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