Theory and Practice of Early Reading - Vol. 3

Theory and Practice of Early Reading - Vol. 3

Theory and Practice of Early Reading - Vol. 3

Theory and Practice of Early Reading - Vol. 3

Excerpt

Phyllis A. Weaver Harvard University

Lauren B. Resnick University of Pittsburgh

There is a kind of idle theory which is antithetical to practice: but genuinely scientific theory falls within practice as the agency of its expansion and its direction to new possibilities.

John Dewey (1932)

Never before the present century has reading instruction commanded so much attention on the part of so many. The sources of this concern and attention lie in a combination of social and scientific developments that set the context in which these volumes and the positions on reading taken in them can best be understood and evaluated. In the social sphere, standards of literacy have been rising during the course of the past century. Virtually everyone is now expected to become literate, and the criteria for assessing literacy are more stringent today than at any previous time. The result is increased public concern for reading and increased attention to reading on the part of educators. In the scientific sphere, meanwhile, there has been a continuing press to apply scientific knowledge to practical affairs, with the result that attention has been directed most to those aspects of educational practice about which science has the most to say. Together, these social and scientific developments have shaped both the extent and the direction of current work on reading, work that is reported and debated in these volumes. In this chapter, we begin by considering how theory and practice in reading instruction have been influenced by these forces. We then outline the specific issues that are dominant in today's debates about early reading; these issues are directly addressed in the chapters of these volumes.

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