"I'm not sure I feel so good about it," Chall says. "It's very unfortunate all this was known and ignored."
Phonics -- which stresses teaching children the sounds of words -- dates to the 1700s. Since then, it has been eclipsed from time to time by the whole-language approach.
1700s -- mid-1800s: Children are taught to read through memorization of the alphabet. Primary text: the Bible.
1783: Noah Webster publishes "The American Spelling Book," used for almost 100 years.
Mid-1800s -- early 1900s: McGuffey Readers prevail. Very phonics oriented.
1910 -- 1920: Ginn and Co.'s Beacon Readers, an "efficient and intelligent sequence of systemic phonics."
1955: "Why Johnny Can't Read," by Rudolf Flesch, attacks look-say instruction, urges a return to phonics. "We've thrown 3,500 years of civilization out the window," he writes.
1967: Jeanne S. Chall's "Learning to Read: The Great Debate," endorses direct instruction in phonics.
1981: Twenty-six years after "Why Johnny can't Read," Rudolf Flesch publishes "Why Johnny Still Can't Read."
1984: The federal commission on reading issues "Becoming a Nation of Readers." "The issue is no longer, as it was several decades ago, whether children should be taught phonics," the commission said.
1995: California's "ABC" laws require instructional materials to include "systematic, explicit phonics, spelling and basic computational skills." North Carolina and Ohio follow suit.
1995 -- 1997: "Word Identification" programs in most Maryland school systems include phonics.
About this series
Yesterday: Many children aren't learning to read properly, and it doesn't have to be that way.
Today: Research backs reading instruction that begins with teaching the sounds that make up words.
Tomorrow: Among school districts, schools and even classrooms within the same school, methods of reading instruction often vary widely.
Wednesday: Most teacher-training colleges don't prepare their graduates to teach beginning reading.
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Pub Date: 11/03/97