Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of “Balanced” Reading Instruction

Abstract: This position paper contends that the whole language approach to reading instruction has been disproved by research and evaluation but still pervades textbooks for teachers, instructional materials for classroom use, some states’ language-arts standards and other policy documents, teacher licensing requirements and preparation programs, and the professional context in which teachers work. The paper finds that many who pledge allegiance to “balanced reading” continue to misunderstand reading development and to deliver “poorly conceived, ineffective reading
instruction.” It argues that “rooting out whole language” from reading classrooms calls for effort on eight separate fronts. The paper describes what whole language is, why it is contradicted by scientific studies, how it continues in education, and what should be done to correct the situation.

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