Just another rant about misplaced focus on reading problems
Who the [****] misses the importance of instruction in kids' learning?
Folks, let me apologize in advance, because I've written this before, but I get a little (a good bit?) irritated when I read about children “arriving at kindergarten unprepared to learn to read,” as I just found in a Nature description (see Perazzo et al., 2022; quote from the abstract). What the [curse word] is the matter here? It's not that the kids come to school with different skills and competencies. Of course they do.
It's that schools are not prepared to teach kids to read. Schools cling to bogus theories. Schools prioritize images of fun and happiness over students’ success. Schools figure that what suits a teachers’ teaching style is more important that students’ outcomes. Schools…well, I could go on, and readers may be able to provide better illustrations than what I’ve just offered.
Now, let me hasten to note that the scientific-technical features of the Perazzo et al. (2022) study are solid. Some folks will want to read it. That's not the reason for my concern. I'm [insert your own favorite street synonym for “irritated”] because the study is balanced on a false premise. That premise is that there are characteristics of the children that control reading outcome. Y'all know that I'm concerned about the characteristics of instruction. Sure, kids’ characteristics affect outcomes, but those characteristics are only a part of the equation.
Most of us can cite examples of children with demonstrable biological anomalies (say, trisomy 21 or "Down Syndrome") who read just fine. My late colleague and friend, Patty Pullen, had her second-grade kids who had what we used to call "mental retardation" reading just as well as (and often better than) their same-age peers. How? She freaking knew how to teach them. She used the old DI reading programs and she executed them quite well. (To be sure, as they progressed through the grades, they fell behind because they didn't soak up as much world knowledge as their peers did, and Patty only had them for a coupla-few years; but they could freaking read pretty much anything one put in front of them.)
So let me reiterate: Perazzo et al. (2022) provide interesting data about the persistence of effects of "chronic pediatric diseases" and subsequent reading problems. Those problems are... well... problematic. But Perazzo et al., missed a critical variable: They didn't account for the instruction the children got. The data set they used may have not provided ways to code for the quality of instruction—too bad—but the authors should at least recognize that not every reading problems can be blamed on the learners, their families, or their other environments.
Perazzo, D., Moore, R., Kasparian, N. A., Rodts, M., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Crosby, L., Turpin, B., Beck, A. R., & Hutton, J. (2022). Chronic pediatric diseases and risk for reading difficulties: A narrative review with recommendations. Pediatric Research, 92, 966–978. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-022-01934-y