Striking a peaceful balance in the reading 'wars'
Regarding "Ending the reading wars" (Jan. 29, Editorial): As a reading researcher who has never felt the wars between phonics and whole-language teaching methods were productive, I've advanced the position that excellent reading instruction balances massive skills instruction and holistic reading and writing experiences.
My colleagues and I searched for primary classrooms where literacy achievement was high. When we found such classrooms, the instruction was always exceptionally balanced and very intense, for there is much to do to learn skills and use them every day while reading literature and writing daily compositions.
There are those who insist on carrying on the battle, and the skills-first folks seem to be winning in the legislatures. I urge legislators to read broadly on this topic.
Notre Dame, Ind.
We will make progress ending the reading wars when definitions and research results are made clear. Whole language does not entail "plunging children into literature." Rather, whole-language teachers provide children with interesting texts and help make these texts comprehensible.
An author on the subject, Frank Smith, notes that providing some knowledge about phonics contributes to making texts comprehensible, but there are limits on phonics: Many rules are very complex, and have numerous exceptions. There is no evidence that a heavy emphasis on phonics is of value.
The "reading wars" you mention in your editorial is in my opinion a fabrication and certainly a nonscientific statement. Because of the inaccurate and one-sided press about the teaching of reading, the "warlike" verbiage remains a huge contributing factor in eroding the freedom to teach and the teaching profession. I believe if you did more research, you would agree that it should not be called a "war," but at most a debate or discussion.
Regarding "For underwater national parks" (Feb. 1, Opinion): Less than 1 percent of the United States beyond the beach is protected by marine reserves. But there are many processes under way at the state, regional, and federal levels to change that.
California is poised to protect 25 percent or more of the waters surrounding the Channel Islands with marine reserves. These waters are home to an array of animals and plants, ranging from microscopic algae and tube worms to gigantic kelp and blue whales. The Channel Islands' abalone and rockfish populations have been depleted, but can be revitalized, along with the complex communities they live in, with marine reserves and better fisheries management.
Regarding "A fight to keep an island's black heritage" (Jan. 29): I have been a resident of St. Simons Island, Ga., for the last 16-1/2 years. The cultural changes have distressed me greatly.
The once-charming black area I used to drive through is now an enclave of white homes. It started with one home built by a white family in an all-black area. Since that time, countless homes have been razed, replaced by modern structures occupied by whites. The black descendants of slaves have been a part of the history of this island for centuries, and they are being displaced. By the way, I am white.
St. Simons Island, Ga.
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