Understanding the “Science of Reading” Movement and Its Consequences: A Reader

MacPhee, D., Handsfield, L.J., & Paugh, P. (2021). Conflict or conversation? Media portrayals of the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, TBD. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.384


In this article, we contend that in media stories on the science or reading, journalists have relied on strategic metaphorical framing to present reading education as a public crisis with a narrow and settled solution. Drawing on data from a critical metaphor analysis of 37 media stories, we demonstrate how frames used in recent media reporting have intensified the reading wars, promoting conflict and hampering conversation among stakeholders and across research paradigms and methodologies. The media have asserted a direct connection between basic research and instructional practice that, without sufficient translational research that attends to a variety of instructional contexts and student populations, may perpetuate inequities. We end with an example of collaboration and a challenge to reframe reading education in ways that center collaboration and conversation rather than conflict.

Conflict or conversation? Media portrayals of the science of reading

Bowers, J. S., & Bowers, P. N. (2021, January 22). The science of reading provides little or no support for the widespread claim that systematic phonics should be part of initial reading instruction: A response to Buckingham. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/f5qyu


It is widely claimed that the science of reading supports the conclusion that systematic phonics should be part of initial reading instruction. Bowers (2020) challenged this conclusion after reviewing all the main evidence, and Buckingham (2020a) provided a detailed response where she argues that the evidence does indeed support systematic phonics and criticizes an alternative form of instruction called “Structured Word Inquiry” or (SWI). Here we show that every substantive criticism Buckingham makes is factually incorrect or reflects a fundamental mischaracterization. There is nothing in her article that challenges the conclusions that Bowers (2020) draws regarding systematic phonics, and nothing that challenges the claims we have made in the past regarding SWI. This should not be used to support whole language or balanced literacy, but it should motivate researchers to consider alternative methods that are well motivated on theoretical grounds, such as SWI.

Bowers and Bowers (2021)

Caught in the Crosshairs: Emerging Bilinguals and the Reading Wars (NEPC)

After a relatively quiet phase, the “reading wars” reignited in 2018 in the wake of a flurry of news media coverage sparked by a public radio documentary that argued that students across America were receiving inadequate phonics instruction. More than a dozen states—including Florida, Texas and North Carolina—rushed to react, passing laws requiring pre-service and current teachers to place a greater emphasis on phonics.

Now researchers who study Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students are raising questions about the potential impact of these efforts on such students, including emerging bilinguals. …

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See Also

Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” (NEPC)

The Critical Story of the “Science of Reading” and Why Its Narrow Plotline Is Putting Our Children and Schools at Risk

Perspective | Is there really a ‘science of reading’ that tells us exactly how to teach kids to read?

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