More than 20 years ago, the federal government released a review of decades of reading research whose findings should have charted a path toward better instruction and higher reading levels.
Based on an extensive research review, the National Reading Panel (NRP) report was an inflection point in the history of reading research and education policy. It found that instruction in five related areas — phonemic awareness, phonics, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension — benefits early readers. And, in the minds of many, including its authors, it should have ended the debate about whole-language and basic-skills reading instruction.
Instead, the opposite happened: The fighting over reading instruction intensified, and methods that were failing kids became entrenched.
For that result, there are many contributing factors, some of which have been featured in APM Reports’ new podcast series, Sold a Story, which I helped research.
An inadequate media response may well be one of the reasons the NRP report didn’t have the influence it should have.
At the time, few reporters writing for mainstream outlets recognized the significance of the NRP report and gave it the in-depth, prolonged attention that it warranted — or made regular mention of it in subsequent stories.