Why Kids Can't Read: Challenging the Status Quo in Education
Rowman & Littlefield Education
Edited by Phyllis Blaunstein and Reid Lyon
"This book is meant to help the millions of parents who find their children struggling to learn to read." So begins this swell collection of twelve essays in which Blaunstein and Lyon walk parents, step-by-step, through the science of reading, how that science has changed real people's lives, and how parents of struggling readers can improve things for their own children as well as others (see here and here). Impressively, there are no weak essays, but first among equals is Sally and Bennett Shaywitz's "Armed with the Facts: The Science of Reading and Its Implications for Teaching." Both physicians, the Shaywitzes navigate the mine-field of reading instruction jargon to explain what science tells us about how children learn to read, and what scientifically based reading instruction is. They use neurological research responsibly to describe dyslexia and to demonstrate that nearly all children can be taught to read at a high level. Their essay closes with a list of signs that a child is having trouble reading. Every parent of a school age child should attach that list to their refrigerator doors, and every K-3 teacher should have it on her desk. Besides the Shaywitzes, the book contains individual stories of personal success, usable education policy advice for grass-roots leaders, and information for new teachers who won't tolerate continued failure in teaching reading. Each essay is smartly developed and ends with solid practical advice. The only disappointments are appendices that are too short and vague to accomplish their purposes of describing scientifically based reading and helping parents identify good reading programs. But the essays are fine. If you have a struggling reader in your family, buy it. If you're a policy wonk, buy several copies for those who look to you for guidance with a struggling reader. It's available here.