The Development and Teaching of Word Recognition Skill

Authored by: William E. Tunmer , Tom Nicholson

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805853421
eBook ISBN: 9780203840412
Adobe ISBN: 9781136891427


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In a recent review Snow and Juel (2005) drew attention to the long history of conflict about the most effective way to teach English-speaking children how to read, a conflict that has been described as the “great debate” (Chall, 1967/1983/1996) or, when emotions run high, the “reading wars” (Connor, Morrison, & Katch, 2004). They noted, for example, that from Huey’s (1979) book, The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, first published in 1908, “we learn that all the various approaches to teaching reading current today had been developed by 1870, and that complaints standard today… about effectiveness of instruction were voiced in response to every reform of reading methods” (p. 504). In one form or another the debate over reading methods has raged for more than a century, with the pendulum swinging back and forth between approaches that emphasize the development of alphabetic coding skills, or phonics, and those that do not, such as the whole-word method or, more recently, whole language. But this raises an important question: Why has the debate gone on for so long? One would think that after all this time the teachers themselves might have discovered the most effective approach to teaching literacy by gradual refinements of existing methods, leaving it to the academics to provide a more detailed explanation for why the favored approach works best.

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