Summary: Noted literacy researcher and author Denny Taylor turns her attention to the reading wars in a new NCTE book, Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science. This book, Taylor tells us, started out as a short paper analyzing key phonemic awareness studies.
As she discovered that a handful of studies were cited again and again in support of intensive phonics instruction, Taylor began to question how a few researchers had come to speak for the nation on t ...show morehe subject of reading. "What if these eminent researchers got it wrong?" Taylor asks. "What if there were fundamental problems inherent in the design of the studies that they conducted?"
As Taylor probed these questions further, a short paper developed into a full-length book.
At the same time, reading legislation moved forward across the nation, and a story unfolded that had to be told.
"The contention that phonemic awareness must be taught directly," Taylor writes in the prologue, "is less of a scientific 'fact' than an exercise in political persuasion." Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science traces the pathways of this polit ical project from Texas to California to Washington, D.C. Taylor's own characterization of the book is that it is "edgy and often polemic."
In the prologue, Taylor writes, "my purpose in writing Spin Doctors is to reconstruct the underlying assumptions of the political arguments that trouble and divide us, and to discover how the arguments are conceived and how they are shaped. I want to provide those who read this book with opportunities to raise fundamental questions about the character and purpose of 'the reading wars.'"
Through its documentary account of recent events, Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science helps educators to see connections between reading research and broader issues of social equity and access to our nation's educational resources. L ike Taylor's previous books, Spin Doctors helps teachers recognize how their work matters. Urging teachers to "speak out!" Denny Taylor writes with characteristic passion about our public, as well as our professional, responsibilties.
Whatever happens with current legislation, our view of what is at stake in the "reading wars" will be enlarged as a result of Taylor's work.