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The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:13 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
At the time of starting this thread, the names of some real GIANTS in the field of reading science and moving the reading debate forwards are cropping up on Twitter with great appreciation. For example, the work of Robert Sweet Jnr, Reid Lyon, Geraldine Rodgers, Professor Diane McGuinness, Jeanne Chall, Marilyn Jager Adams, Dr Louisa Moats and Don Potter.

To name but a few.

I feel unbelievably privileged to know, or to know of, these pioneering greats. There are so many others, too, that I thought I would start a thread to which we can add further names and simple statements and links to their work.

Robert Sweet Jnr, that is, Bob Sweet, wrote this message below and I asked his permission to add it here as it summed up so succinctly some of the developments in America and his view on what is needed now:

I became aware of the NICHD research in the mid 80’s. It was before much attention was paid to it. I met Reid Lyon and others at Yale University where they had tested 40,000 students over 25 years. At that point I thought that would change the way Reading was taught.

Then I worked with Reid in 1999 to get the report of the National Reading Panel distributed to all school districts in the US.

Later I had the privilege in 2000 of writing Reading First under George W Bush. Again I had hopes that research would convince teachers that phonics instruction would change things.

More than $6 billion in federal funds were distributed to all 50 states to change to Phonics.

I had lots of contact with professors at major Universities about brain research and how the brain changes when taught Phonics rather than whole language.

Here we are more than 30 years later and we still are debating how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

How to teach Reading is settled science. Further debate is not needed. One can hope it won’t take another 30 years.

The way Reading should be taught and putting that into practice is the essential issue facing us.

We need to highlight how teachers can become successful and apply the reading science we know!

Bob told me, "I met Dave Boulton in 2001 when he interviewed me. I was then in the process of writing the “Reading First Law” that passed in January 2002 and provided about $6 billion funding for teachers all across the America".

Children of the Code interview: Robert Sweet - Phonics and the Evolution of Reading Policy

Bob Sweet is the founder of the National Right to Read Foundation (NRRF) in America:

See IFERI's 'Inform Factsheets':

Research Findings in Reading Instruction are Settled Science ... cience.pdf

How Children Learn to Read ... -Read2.pdf

READING RECOVERY Is it efficacious and effective? ... covery.pdf

The Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles ... ciples.pdf

Why Book Bands and Levelled Reader Books Should Be Abandoned ... oned-1.pdf

20th July 2019: We are very sad to learn of the loss of Bob Sweet. I have notified others via this link below:


Bruce Deitrick Price, another stalwart in promoting evidence-informed reading instruction in America, writes about the work and kind nature of Bob Sweet:


Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:19 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Here is a very informative article by guest columnist, Scott A. McConnell, in Education News. Note that Scott mentions so many greats from America and also makes references to people and events in Australia in England:


Jan 8, 2019
by Scott A. McConnell

The Nature of the Alphabet Must Be Obeyed ... t-to-read/

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:26 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
On the theme of 'The work of our GIANTS', the wonderful human being and definite 'GREAT', Robert Sweet Jnr, wrote this to me to acknowledge some of the people who have led, and are leading, the move towards research-informed reading instruction. Bob wrote to me:

Hi Debbie! I got “inspired” this morning and have been working for several hours compiling websites that I think are valuable for research and for teachers. Most of the people featured are colleagues or those who helped me from 1981 till now.

I am listing those I know personally, or have met or talked to over the year.

Dr. Rudolph Flesch - He called me after the publication of Becoming A Nation of Readers in 1985 to congratulate me on publishing it when I was at the US Department of Education.

Dr. Marilyn Adams who wrote Learning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print. She also approved the definition of “Scientifically Reading Research” that I wrote, and was published in the USDOE law more than 100 times.

Dr. Alvin Liberman Haskins Laboratory at Yale University who gave me the history of reading instruction and where more than 40,000 children were tested for reading proficiency over a period of years.

Dr. Reid Lyon at The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, who was my colleague and co-author of Reading First and Early Reading First that became law in 2002.

Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard University who produced a report to Congress on reading instruction in 1999. She and her colleagues delivered the report to me when I was on staff at the US House of Representatives Education Committee.

Dr. Louisa Moats who established the LETRS program to help teachers understand the science of reading and how to teach it.

Emily Hanford with whom I had several conversations on reading instruction, its history and the current “debate” on how children learn to read. Her report has had worldwide impact.

There are many more colleagues and teachers to whom I am so grateful over the years and who helped me understand more about both the problem and solution to this seeming intractable situation in the US and many more English-speaking nations.

I am indebted to you, and to IFERI, and to so many friends I now know and who are also colleagues in other nations.

Also, I must acknowledge that one of the first books I read was by Sam Blumenfeld, The New Illiterates: And how you can help your child from becoming one, 1973: ... cdf2d02341

Mike Brunner whom I hired in 1983 when I was Director of the National Institute of Education - I also contracted with him to write in 1992 when I was Administrator of Juvenile Justice at the US Department of Justice: Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential.

Here is the NRRF web address for these links: ... ding-2019/

Use this any way that might be helpful.

Happy New Year - 2019

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:39 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Please make sure you check out the link on the NRRF site that Bob has provided. It should leave no doubt about the science showing the efficacy of how we need to teach reading, and it demonstrates the enormous efforts over decades to get the scientific findings into legislation in America.

And yet still, many years later, journalist Emily Hanford is currently revealing that teachers in America are not necessarily trained in the findings of research and, indeed, may continue to be mis-trained and misinformed, thus reading instruction remains to this day, a matter of 'chance': ... ding-2019/

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:20 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Tributes to the wonderful Marva Collins:


Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:22 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Another amazing lady, Dr Joyce Morris who coined the phrase 'phonicsphobia' when she witnessed extraordinary negativity to phonics many years ago: ... -1921-2014


The link to Joyce's famous 'phonicsphobia' article is no longer working but I think it is important to find another link if possible to add here.

Within UKRA she was best known for her linguistics-based advocacy of synthetic phonics, a system which (as she explained in her article ‘Phonicsphobia’ published in the Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society in 1994) has often met fierce resistance. She lived long enough, however, to see the tide turn, in particular following the publication of the Rose Review on the teaching of reading in 2006.

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:39 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
IFERI committee member, Susan Godsland, provides an exceptionally well-informed site Here is Susan's recommended literature:

Many people, internationally, have been enlightened considerably by the work of Professor Diane McGuinness - with respect both to the research findings and practical understanding of the complex English alphabetic code and how to organise phonics by focusing on the sounds and their many spelling alternatives rather than the many graphemes (letters and letter groups) and their various pronunciation alternatives. Diane also identified a 'prototype' - that is, features shared in common of effective programmes and provision. Susan flags up the 'must read' of Diane's literature:

Recommended for student teachers (primary) X (secondary) X

XX Early Reading Instruction: what science really tells us about how to teach reading.
Diane McGuinness. MIT Press. Kindle edition available. Prof. McGuinness describes this book as ''largely an inductive analysis of the historical evidence and the empirical research on reading [and spelling] instruction''

''(Y)ou can do no better than to read Diane McGuinness’ masterful, Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us about How to Teach Reading'' says English teacher and author David Didau, writer of ''the second most influential education blog in the UK''.

X Why Children Can't Read: and what we can do about it. Diane McGuinness, with a foreword by Prof. Steven Pinker: ''(O)ne of the most important books of the decade''. Pub. Penguin. USA edition (in print) Why our children can't read and what we can do about it. Pub. Simon&Schuster.

''A superb achievement...This clearly written and authoritative work is the work to read for parents and teachers who wish everyone in our democracy to be able to read'' (E.D. Hirsch, Jr.)

''If you only ever read two books about language and literacy, make them "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker and "Why Children Can't Read" by Diane McGuinness'' ... -literacy/

The work of Martin Turner (deceased) has also been recently flagged up. Education Psychologist, Martin Turner (based in England) noted declining standards in children's literacy over a period of time and describes the failure of authorities to acknowledge this. See Susan's references to some of his work:

1996. Reading Fever: Why phonics must come first. Turner / Burkard. Pub. Centre for Policy Studies.
Free. ... gFever.pdf

1991. Reading, Learning and the National Curriculum. Martin Turner. Pub. Centre for Policy Studies.
Free. ... um1991.pdf

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 1:41 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Siegfried 'Zig' Engelmann was a giant amongst giants, without doubt, and on news of his death, yet another giant, Dr Kerry Hempenstall, has provided important information and a warm tribute to Zig:


Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Thu May 02, 2019 8:48 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Check out interviews of the Giants via the amazing Children of the Code site:

Re: The work of our GIANTS - How often do we have to evidence the same results? What matters the most now?

Posted: Sat May 18, 2019 2:05 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Dr Kerry Hempenstall has made an enormous contribution to informing people about the summaries of international research - his work is incredible and we should be very thankful:

Dr Kerry Hempenstall's complete list of blogs