Ken Goodman

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Kenneth Goodman (born December 23, 1927) is Professor Emeritus, Language Reading and Culture, at the University of Arizona.[1] He is best known for developing the theory underlying the literacy philosophy of whole language.


After publishing an influential book on the subject, Goodman began to create a psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic model of reading inspired by the work of Noam Chomsky. Goodman decided that the process of reading was similar to the process of learning a language as conceptualized by Chomsky, and that literacy developed naturally as a consequence of experiences with print, just as language ability developed naturally as a consequence of experiences with language. Goodman concluded that attempts to teach rules ("phonics") to children for decoding words were inappropriate and not likely to succeed.

After developing and researching the Whole Language model, Goodman presented his work to the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference and published an article in the Journal of the Reading Specialist, in which he famously wrote that reading is a "psycholinguistic guessing game." He retired from the University of Arizona in August 1998.


Goodman's concept of written language development views it as parallel to oral language development. Goodman's theory was a basis for the whole language movement, which was further developed by Yetta Goodman, Regie Routman, Frank Smith and others. His concept of reading as an analogue to language development has been studied by brain researchers such as Sally Shaywitz, who rejected the theory on the grounds that reading does not develop naturally in the absence of instruction. Despite this, the theory continues to receive support from some scholars. Goodman's theory and strong convictions made him an icon of the whole language movement and a lightning rod for criticism from those who disagree with it. His book What's Whole in Whole Language sold over 250,000 copies in six languages.


Goodman is a controversial figure in the education community. He has served in several important capacities, including as President of the International Reading Association, President of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy, and President of the Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking. He also worked extensively with the National Council of Teachers of English. He received a number of awards, including the James Squire award from NCTE for contributions to the profession and NCTE (2007). Goodman has published over 150 articles and book chapters as well as a number of books. In addition to What's Whole in Whole Language, he also wrote Ken Goodman on Reading and Phonics Phacts; all were published by Heinemann. His latest book is Scientific Realism in Studies of Education, which was published by Taylor and Francis in 2007.


  1. ^ "Kenneth S. Goodman". University of Arizona. Retrieved 29 November 2010.