The letter below is in response to In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat by Dana Goldstein published Sunday, May 22.

Why are we talking about this now? Though the “reading wars” are not new, the science of reading is buzzing now in a way that it never has. Suddenly, our moral compass tells us it’s unfathomable to ignore national reading scores that have been abysmal for decades.

Here’s why: the COVID-19 pandemic and its disrupted learning impacted ALL children – even upper-class white children, where previously we accepted that only Black and Brown, lower-income and multi-lingual children wouldn’t be proficient readers. No one has thought twice about pathologizing Black children for failed reading instruction across our nation. Systemic racism has kept us from looking to educational practices for the cause of reading failure, and we have not held systems accountable.

Kids have not been failing; we have been failing kids.

We should be able to trust our institutions of higher education like Teachers College, Columbia University. We should be holding our institutions and systems accountable now for the broad and documented failure.

Lucy Calkins’ inclusion of phonics falls far short of the science of reading. When will we stop investing in failed practices and gain the fortitude to do what must be done for every child?

The science of reading provides an explicit and systematic road map for every child to read proficiently. As districts across the country prepare for the 2022-23 year, we know that change is possible when it’s a priority. We know what to do.

Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D.
Director of the Atlanta Speech School’s Rollins Center for Language & Literacy and its Cox Campus, a FREE, online, professional development platform dedicated to the Science of Reading