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[Susan notes: The headline annoyed me all day. As I skimmed through the online paper, I kept encountering it--and each time would get mad all over again.

And I don't give a rat's ear about what a professor of psychology has to say about intensive phonics.

I'm glad a saner head prevailed, ad Steve wrote a good, short, research-based reply.


Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

Daniel Willingham's approval of the findings of The National Reading Panel is not justified ( Teachers aren't dumb, Sept. 8).

The panel decided that teachers need to know the fine details of phonological awareness (sensitivity to individual sounds in words). There is very little research directly linking phonemic awareness training and improvement in reading comprehension, and many people learn to read quite well with little phonological awareness.

The panel also decided that teachers need to teach "intensive" phonics, which requires that children learn all the major rules of phonics in a strict order. Studies show that intensive phonics instruction results in better test scores only on tests in which children pronounce words presented in isolation. Intensive phonics makes no significant contribution to performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

There is overwhelming research showing that real reading ability is the result of actual reading, especially of books that readers find very interesting.

Stephen Krashen

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