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[Susan notes: Letters don't always need to complain. Steve shows the power of being positive--and then

getting in your "fine points."]

Published in Christian Science Monitor

To the editor

Regarding the Feb. 10 opinion piece "One way to end the math and reading wars": Jonathan Zimmerman's description of the whole language/phonics controversy is the most accurate account I have read. He notes that the conflict involves "competing conceptions of human nature and development. One side thinks children develop naturally, while the other believes that learning must be imposed upon their natures."

But one fine point: Mr. Zimmerman points out that according to whole language theory, children "learn words and sentences from their context." More precisely, children learn to read by reading, by understanding what is written on the page. They are helped in this by context: their knowledge of the world, their knowledge of the story, and their knowledge of language - which includes previously acquired grammar, vocabulary, and phonics.

Contrary to what one often reads, the research does not firmly support skills/heavy phonics approaches. Studies confirm that those who read more, read better - and that access to books has a strong influence on reading ability. Of particular interest are studies showing that better school libraries mean higher reading test scores.

Stephen Krashen

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