National Reading Panel

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The National Reading Panel (NRP) was a United States government body. Formed in 1997 at the request of Congress, it was a national panel with the stated aim of assessing the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read.

The panel was created by Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, and included prominent experts in the fields of reading education, psychology, and higher education. The panel was chaired by Donald Langenberg (University of Maryland), and included the following members: Gloria Correro (Mississippi State U.), Linnea Ehri (City University of New York), Gwenette Ferguson (middle school teacher,Houston, TX), Norma Garza (parent, Brownsville, TX), Michael L. Kamil (Stanford U.), Cora Bagley Marrett (U. Massachusetts-Amherst), S. J. Samuels (U. of Minnesota), Timothy Shahahan (U. of Illinois at Chicago), Sally Shaywitz (Yale U.), Thomas Trabasso (U. of Chicago), Joanna Williams (Columbia U.), Dale Willows (U. Of Toronto), Joanne Yatvin (school district superintendent, Boring, OR).

In April 2000, the panel issued its report, "Teaching Children to Read," and completed its work. The report summarized research in eight areas relating to literacy instruction: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, independent reading, computer assisted instruction, and teacher professional development. The final report was endorsed by all of the panel members except one. Joanne Yatvin wrote a minority report criticizing the work of the NRP because it (a) did not include teachers of early reading on the panel or as reviewers of the report and (b) only focused on a subset of important reading skills. Timothy Shanahan, another panel member, later responded that Dr. Yatvin had received permission to investigate areas of reading instruction that the panel could not address within the limited time provided for their work. Shanahan noted that she had not pursued additional areas of interest despite the willingness of the panel to allow her to do so.

In 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the report would be the basis of federal literacy policy and was used prominently to craft Reading First, a $5 billion federal reading initiative that was part of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

Phonemic Awareness[edit]

The NRP called phonemic awareness (PA) instruction "impressive":[1]

Overall, the findings showed that teaching children to manipulate phonemes in words was highly effective under a variety of teaching conditions with a variety of learners across a range of grade and age levels and that teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly improves their reading more than instruction that lacks any attention to PA.

The report singles out PA instruction based on teaching children to manipulate phonemes with letters as highly effective. Phonemic awareness instruction also improved spelling in grade-level students, although it did not improve spelling in disabled readers.

Computer Technology and Reading Instruction[edit]

In Chapter 6 of the NRP report, the panel concludes that due to the limited number of experimental studies available, the instructional recommendations for reading and computers are unclear. The panel asserts that computer technology can be used for reading instruction, however, the authors state there is a "great deal of additional exploration" to be done in order to understand how computer use should be operationalized in the reading classroom.

In particular, the panel calls attention to the paucity of research on the use of the Internet for reading instruction. One potential explanation for this void is the concern that at this time, teachers are not well-prepared to teach with the Internet and therefore its use is limited in terms of the breadth and depth with which it is used for instructional purposes (Wallace, 2004). According to Wallace (2004), the use of the Internet presents challenges due to the unbounded space, extreme fluidity and unpredictable nature of the Internet. Additionally, the Internet disrupts the pattern of textbook authority, presents teachers with difficulty in monitoring students' learning pathways and lacks the sequence in content acquisition that is afforded by more traditional curricula.

The Reading Panel evaluated thousands of articles on reading instruction and couldn't find a single one that examined the possibility that writing practice helps foster literacy, therefore its report neither endorsed nor denied its importance.

References[edit]

Wallace, R. M. (2004). A framework for understanding teaching with the Internet. American Educational Research Journal v. 41 no. 2 447-88.