Speech pathologist Alison Clark’s response to Mem Fox on Friday
reflects the same extremist views of “effective reading” and “evidence
based research” which characterise the “Teaching Reading” report Dr
Nelson released amid much fanfare last week. Alison gives herself away
with this comment: “ …reading is only fun if you can do it.” In order
to support the argument that Extreme Phonics is a necessary
pre-requisite for all children to learn to read, both Alison and Ken
Rowe are forced to define “effective” reading as the ability to
pronounce words in isolation. Hence if you can’t bark at print then you
can’t read, and therefore it’s “not fun.” It doesn’t matter if you
don’t comprehend what the author intends. As long as you can pronounce
the words accurately, you are an effective reader.

It is important to understand the implications that this definition of
reading has on the research methodologies which its advocates employ to support
their position. Think about it. If one believes that the act of reading is the
ability to convert graphic shapes into the sounds of oral language, then one
will design, implement, and evaluate research and intervention projects based on
this view. Thus if one wants to prove that a certain intervention program lifts
reading ability, one will use a pre-test of reading which comprises items based
on the ability to make accurate letter-sound conversions, then implement a
program which teaches the skills and knowledge necessary for accurate
letter-sound conversion, and when the trial has finished, will administer a
parallel version of the pre-test to measure growth. It all sounds very
“scientific.” The findings of such research have all the accoutrements of being
“evidence -based,” and if the post-test scores rise significantly surely this
proves that the intervention has “caused” reading to improve?

To read on – and to check out the debate from the beginning, click here.