NRRF - Press Release - The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research For Immediate Release
Contact: Anastasia Worcester, Publicity Manager
Phone: 410.337.9580       Fax: 410.337.8539

Finally, Teachers Have The Answers Needed to Teach All Children to Read
New book is "Mandatory reading" says the National Reading Panel Chair

Baltimore, MD -- Not since the groundbreaking 2000 report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) has a single resource offered such clarity on what constitutes sound reading instruction. In The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research (McCardle & Chhabra, Brookes Publishing, March 2004), distinguished experts answer the questions on all educatorsí minds: Why is scientifically based research so important? How can educators recognize solid, research-based evidence? How can teachers make informed choices about applying research to teaching? Since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, a book like The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research has been urgently needed: a respected book that clearly communicates to educators what works, how it works, and what constitutes solid, trustworthy research.

Peggy McCardle and Vinita Chhabra, literacy experts from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, have partnered with 30 leaders in education, psychology, and science to interpret critical information for every professional committed to eliminating the infamous "achievement gap" that plagues schools and communities coast to coast. In a country with the resources to ensure every child learns to read fluently, where have we gone wrong?

"Armed with [this bookís] evidence of what works and with research-based reading programs and instructional strategies," says Sandra Feldman, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), we "will meet the goal of every child reading well by the end of third grade."

As foreword author Catherine Snow, Vice Chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) initiative and Shattuck professor at Harvard Universityís Graduate School of Education explains, "the time has arrived to put aside overly simplistic statements about the incompetence of teachers, the inadequacies of teacher preparation programs, or the failure of urban school districts. We have the knowledge to bring change for the better." "For any and all who claim to care about the quality of reading instruction in America," pronounces J. Thomas Viall, Executive Director of the International Dyslexia Association, "The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research will surely become required reading."

Donald N. Langenberg, Chairman of the NRP, says The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research "should be mandatory reading for those unpersuaded of the relevance of valid, evidence-based instructional practices in the teaching of reading, or any other subject, at any level of education." The NRPís 2000 summary report, "Teaching Children to Read," contributed generously to our understanding of the essential components of literacy.

Now, The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research provides educators with a resource for learning how to evaluate and apply research to practices in their classrooms. Discovering new interventions for students who struggle, motivating students to achieve, and developing their own professional skills are only a few of the powerful reasons for teachers to institute scientifically based practices and teach from the evidence. The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research is an invitation to collaboration for successful reading instruction in American classrooms that ensures no child is left behind.

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About the editors

Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., M.P.H., is Associate Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, Center for Research for Mothers and Children, at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. McCardle holds a bachelor's degree in French, a Ph.D. in linguistics, and a masterís degree in public health (MPH). At the NIH she has served as a scientific review administrator and as a senior advisor to the Deputy Director for Extramural Research in the Office of the NIH Director, before joining the NICHD. In 1999, she joined the NICHD where, in addition to her duties as Associate Chief, she serves as Director of the branchís research program in Language, Bilingual and Biliteracy Development and Disorders. She also serves as the NICHD liaison to the National Reading Panel and the Partnership for Reading, is on the steering committee of the National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth, and leads or serves on various interagency working groups. Peggy McCardle lives in Maryland with her husband, is an avid gardener and also writes outside of her life as a scientist administrator.

Vinita Chhabra, M.Ed., is a Research Scientist for the National Reading Panel (NRP), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chhabra has a masterís degree in educational psychology and a background in special education, with an emphasis in reading disabilities. She has worked with the NRP since its inception and was responsible for researching and conducting searches of literature in reading for the NRP and coordinating and editing materials for the NRP report. She is heading the dissemination activities for the NRP and works as a liaison to joint educational activities with the National Institute for Literacy and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, Ms. Chhabra assists the NICHDís Child Development and Behavior Branch in adolescent and family literacy initiatives, with a focus in motivation in reading and literacy. She has co-authored articles dealing with reading disabilities and is completing her doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Virginia.

About Brookes Publishing Co.

Recently celebrating their 25th anniversary, Brookes Publishing has been a leading provider of resources on education, disabilities, child development, early intervention, communication and language, behavior, and mental health since 1978. An independent company, Brookes Publishing is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit the Brookes Publishing web site at

A Conversation With Peggy McCardle & Vinita Chhabra
of The Voice of Evidence In Reading Research

Q: What was the purpose you had in mind when compiling this book?

A: We wanted to make research information on reading more accessible to educators — not just the research findings, although these are crucially important because teachers are being asked to implement them, but also how research is done, and why different methods are used to address different kinds of research questions.

Q: How has Dr. G. Reid Lyon played a role in the publication of this book? Why have you dedicated the book to him?

A: The only role he has played is a historical one. He developed the NICHD reading research program, and has pushed for rigorous, high quality studies whose findings could inform how children can best be taught to read. His only direct role in this particular book is that he inspired us to do it. It came as a surprise to him, but he encouraged us to undertake it when we proposed it. When we told him we wanted to dedicate it to him because of all of his efforts in reading, he felt it would be more appropriate to dedicate the book to the children for whom we are all working. That is why the book is dedicated to both Reid and the children everywhere who are learning or need to learn to read.

Q: What is "scientifically based research"? What are the criteria for scientifically based research?

A: Scientifically based reading research (SBRR) is defined as research that applies systematic and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties. Fundamentally, SBRR means using reliable evidence to make decisions about how to best deliver reading instruction. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the criteria for SBRR is that the research must (1) use rigorous, systematic, and empirical methods, (2) involve rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify drawn conclusions, (3) rely on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations and, (4) is accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparable rigorous, objective, and scientific review. Essentially, SBRR uses scientific research methods to determine how children can best be taught to read, and for the teachers to use this information in their classrooms. It all comes back to the kids and teaching them using the most scientifically based research available.

Q: Is evidence-based research just shorthand for phonics?

A: No. We need evidence about how best to teach anything, be it phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, or even math. Our children are too important not to base their educational and vocational futures on instructional methods that we have evidence on that really work. Phonics is only one of the crucial aspects of reading — phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are all very important parts of successful reading.

Q: Can you define phonemic awareness? Phonics?

A: Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units comprising spoken language that can change meaning, so instruction in phonemic awareness involves teaching children to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken syllables and words. Phonemic awareness is often confused with phonics instruction, which involves teaching students how to use letter-sound relations to read or spell. Helping readers understand how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes) to form letter-sound correspondences and helping them learning how to apply this knowledge in their reading is what phonics instruction is all about. Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction are necessary components in learning to read, but are certainly not sufficient. Students also need instruction in reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Q: Donít our school systems already use research and havenít teachers been trained in the best practices?

A: Some do and some donít. One of our goals for this book is for it to be used in teacher preparation programs so that more teachers enter the classroom better equipped to teach all kids to read.

Q: Is this book suggesting that teachers are doing a poor job teaching reading?

A: No, there are many teachers out there doing a great job. And we truly believe that all teachers want to do a great job. However, there are too many teachers out there who want to teach children to read successfully but have not been given the tools and training they need to do that. That is why we wrote the book.

Q: Is the book suggesting that teachers have a hard time reading the National Reading Panel report?

A: The "NRP: Report of the Subgroups" does contain a lot of statistics and research terms that could be difficult to read, but also that volume is really long. Few teachers have time to read something like that. We thought that having that information summarized (and more recent — there is new data in these chapters), and having it written in a clearer fashion than researchers usually write, would be helpful not only for educators but also for graduate students, new researchers and others. And we wanted to pair it with some information about how and why the research is done, and about how research can inform policy. We thought theyíd be interested in that.

Q: You identify various types of research: neuroimaging, intervention studies, and longitudinal research — is it really necessary or important for a first grade teacher to understand these research concepts?

A: The intervention and longitudinal research is absolutely relevant for them, and probably very interesting, too. They are being asked to implement what we have learned using many of these methods, and they probably wonder sometimes what the difference among these kinds of studies is. Now the neuroimaging studies — that is something that we thought they might really enjoy, and would want to know about. After all, it shows that they do have an effect — they can successfully affect what happens in a young readerís brain. And thatís pretty exciting.

Q: Do the authors in Voice of Evidence really understand what todayís teachers must go through? Have they ever had any experience themselves teaching in an elementary school setting?

A: Oh yes, they really do understand! Many of the authors taught school earlier in their careers, before they got into research. In fact, for a lot of them it is the reason they got into research. But itís also very important to realize that much of this research is done in classrooms. These researchers really do their work in schools with real teachers and real kids.

Q: How does this information apply to high school students who are struggling? How about functionally illiterate adults?

A: Well, NICHD, the National Institute for Literacy, and US Department of Education offices just jointly funded networks on both adult and adolescent literacy, and that research is now being done. But meanwhile, there are some things we do know. We know that all readers need to have mastered those five main areas — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. We also know that systematic, explicit instruction is important, especially for lower achieving readers — and clearly if youíve gotten to be a teenager or an adult without learning to read, you probably fall into that category. Reading is important in every stage of life, and teachers of adolescents and adults need this information about the research, and about what we do know so far, just as much as elementary school teachers do.

Q: What does the book suggest is the role of the parent? How can they help teachers in this process?

A: Parents need to understand what teachers are doing with their children, and why, so that they can reinforce this at home. Parents also need to have a knowledge base of what it takes for their children to learn to read, so that when necessary they can advocate for their children. This information should not be a secret — weíd like everyone to know how research is done and what it takes to teach children to read.

Q: What is one message you would like to be taken away from this book? What would you like your audience to understand better after reading Voice of Evidence?

A: That research really does have practical significance, that it is done for all of us, but mainly for the kids, who are our future generation of teachers and researchers!

We want them to understand how research is done and how important it is. And that itís important to base policies on a body of evidence, not just what a few people think is the right thing. Because we can all have different ideas and opinions, and thatís what makes life fun, but something as serious as how we teach our children to read ought to have a scientific basis.

What Is Scientifically Based Reading Research?

Scientifically based reading research is research that applies rigorous, systematic and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties.

This includes research that:

  1. Employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;

  2. Involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn;

  3. Relies on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations; and

  4. Has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective and scientific review.

What Are The Essential Components Of Reading Instruction?

Scientifically based reading research has identified five essential components of effective reading instruction:

  1. Phonemic Awareness - The ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds - phonemes - in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words.

  2. Phonics - The understanding that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes - the sounds of spoken language - and graphemes - the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language. Readers use these relationships to recognize familiar words accurately and automatically and to decode unfamiliar words.

  3. Vocabulary Development - Development of stored information about the meanings and pronunciation of words necessary for communication.

  4. Reading fluency, including oral reading skills - Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly. It provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time.

  5. Reading comprehension strategies - Strategies for understanding, remembering, and communicating with others about what has been read. Comprehension strategies are sets of steps that purposeful, active readers use to make sense of text.

Advance Praise for The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research

"This comprehensive resource compels all of understand the critical role research and evidence play in determining what works in improving reading instruction and student achievement in reading. Teaching reading is rocket science; that is, as several authors affirmed in this important book, teaching students to read well is quite complex. But armed with evidence of what works and with research-based reading programs and instructional strategies, knowledgeable and skilled educators and administrators will meet the goal of every child reading well by the end of third grade."

--Sandra Feldman, President, American Federation of Teachers

" extraordinary collection by the finest educational and neurological researchers... this book will surely become required reading for any and all who claim to care about the quality of reading instruction in America."

--J. Thomas Viall, Executive Director, The International Dyslexia Association

"Outstanding and just what the field needs. It should be required reading in every School of Education."

--Benita Blachman, Trustee Professor of Education and Psychology, Syracuse University

"A cornucopia of accessible information important to anyone concerned with the learning of reading... should be mandatory reading for those still unpersuaded of the relevance of valid evidence-based instructional practices in the teaching of reading, or any other subject, at any level of education."

--Donald N. Langenberg, Chairman, National Reading Panel;
Chancellor Emeritus, University System of Maryland

"As a parent who raised a son with reading difficulties, I have dedicated my life to ensuring students receive scientific research-based reading instruction to prevent academic failures. [This] is a significant contribution to promoting 21st century lifelong learners who will require proficient reading skills."

--Norma S. Garza, Member, National Reading Panel; Chair, Brownsville READS!;
Member, President's Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanic Americans

"Provides a much-needed bridge between reading research and reading instruction...The focus is, appropriately, on all children, including those who struggle to learn and read."

--James H. Wendorf, Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities

"Provides invaluable syntheses and practices from...scientifically based research. I picked up this book hoping to find an excellent chapter or two and discovered that every chapter is a necessary resource."

--Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., Director, Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts,
College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin

"Brilliantly organized and written...The lineup of authors is a Who's Who of the leading scholars in reading research in the world today."

--Donald D. Deshler Ph.D., University of Kansas, Center for Research on Reading

"Provides a framework for understanding the importance, methods, and interpretation of scientific research...recommended to anyone who wants to probe deeply into the knowledge base for guiding classroom practice."

--Richard L. Venezky, Unidel Professor of Educational Studies, University of Delaware

"There has been more heat than light in debates on the teaching of reading. This book presents a wide-ranging, authoritative and accessible overview of recent research evidence. It will be welcomed by researchers and teachers."

--Tony Cline, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Luton, England

"No school administrator, including superintendents of schools at every level, can afford to be ignorant of the information available in this book. Critical information about validated research and effective practice is presented clearly and succinctly in a format useful for staff development, curriculum design, and parent education programs."

--Claire D. Nissenbaum, M.A., Executive Director, Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center

"[A] focused summation of two decades of scientific progress in reading research and a fitting tribute to the individuals that have supported this tremendous effort."

--Guinevere Eden, D.Phil., Director, Center for the Study of Learning;
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center

"Peggy McCardle and Vinita Chhabra have provided a valuable service to professionals interested in how we learn how children learn to read...The book is an effective primer and fills a void in the reading research literature."

--Deborah Speece, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Maryland

"The voice in the evidence in reading research speaks so loudly that no educator should be left behind."

-William F. Patterson, Headmaster, The Gow School

"Dyslexia research of this breadth and quality is stunning. It is a companion piece to all brain research and a tapestry of evidence documenting Ortonís and Geschwindís intuitions."

--William H. Baker, Jr., President, The Dyslexia Foundation

Literacy Statistics & Reading Facts
Some more startling statistics...

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