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Myth #4 -- We used to do a betterjob of teaching children to read

As the song goes, "The good olddays weren't always so good."  We have, in fact, never done a betterjob of teaching children to read than we do today.  The bad news is,we've never done a worse job either.  We are basically just as successfultoday as we have always been (which is to say, not very successful).

Nothing illustrates this betterthan the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP). This assessment has been given to children across the country aged 9, 13,and 17 since 1970. Student performance at those three age levels has notchanged substantially in over 30 years.  Other investigations havefound that literacy rates have not really changed in this country sinceWorld War II, and some studies suggest that literacy rates were actuallyworse before the war.

The literacy rates really have notchanged substantially in recent history, but the demand and need for literacyhas increased markedly. Literacy is essentially a prerequisite for successnow, and in the future, the ability to read will be an increasingly indispensableskill.

We clearly do not need to get backto the old ways of teaching children to read -- the old ways were reallyno better than (and some would argue, "no different than") the currentways.  Relatively recent research has given us great insights intowhy some children have difficulty learning to read, and the next frontierin reading education is to help teachers understand and apply that researchinformation.


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Last Updated 8-7-03