The allusion in Robert Pondiscio’s Why Johnny won’t learn to read accomplishes something different than intended. Pondiscio’s uninformed swipe at balanced literacy actually reveals that, once again, ideology trumps teacher professionalism and literacy research.

The reading wars are about almost everything except reading, but the most important lesson from this newest version of the same old thing is that if we start with what balanced literacy is, we begin to see just what those who attack balanced literacy believe:

Spiegel 3

Spiegel’s definition shows that the term “balanced literacy” is about the professional autonomy of the teacher, the wide range of research on how children acquire literacy, and honoring individual student needs (those who need direct instruction and those who do not).

Like “whole language,” balanced literacy does not reject any practice that is needed or effective, and does not prescribe practices either.

When Pondiscio and others, then, reject balanced literacy, they reject teacher autonomy and professionalism, research-based practices in literacy, and student needs.

For Further Reading

Teaching Reading and Children: Reading Programs as “Costume Parties”