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Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do about It: A Scientific Revolution in Reading [Paperback]

Steven Pinker , Diane McGuinness
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: £18.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 1999 0684853566 978-0684853567 1st Touchstone Ed
In America today, 43 percent of our children fall below grade level in reading. In her meticulously researched and groundbreaking work, Diane McGuinness faults outmoded reading systems for this crisis -- and provides the answers we need to give our children the reading skills they need. Drawing on twenty-five years of cutting-edge research, Dr. McGuinness presents bold new "phoneme awareness" programs that overcome the tremendous shortcomings of other systems by focusing on the crucial need to understand and hear reliably the sounds of a language before learning to read. Maintaining that any child can be taught to read fluently if given proper instruction, she dramatically reveals how dyslexia and behavior problems such as ADD stem not from neurological disorders but from flawed methods of reading instruction. With invaluable information on remedial reading programs that can correct various ineffective reading strategies, this book is a must for concerned parents, teachers, and others who want to make a difference.

Frequently Bought Together

Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do about It: A Scientific Revolution in Reading + Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us About How to Teach Reading (Bradford Books) + Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child's Path from Language to Literacy
Price For All Three: £44.87

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Product details

  • Paperback: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (1 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684853566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684853567
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 14.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

University Professor of Education and Humanity, University of Virginia; Author of "Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know"

"Why Our Children Can't Read" is a superb achievement. A wide-ranging book that fuses history, linguistics, and psychology with the practicalities of teaching, its encouraging message is that every child can be taught if we teachers come to know exactly what we are doing. The book is spiced with well -researched critiques of 'whore language, ' of uninformed methods of 'phonies, ' and even of an eclectic 'balance' between phonics and whole language -- as well as devastating critiques of several other sacred cows. Some of these may moo back in protest, but this clearly written and authoritative work is the book to read for parents and teachers who wish everyone in our democracy to be able to read. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a lighthouse in the storm 22 Aug 1998
By A Customer
An excellent book, founded in common sense, close observation, and real science. I hope it starts a revolution, and soon.
Rita Kramer complains about the occasional tone of the book that the author's "own method is the only way to teach reading". Don't be put off by that. The book does make (and justify) some very strong claims about what any successful method for learning to read and write has to do.
This book is the theory book. The companion "how to" or workbook, for parents doing home-schooling or trying to help their children learn to read, is "Reading Reflex", by Geoffry and Carmen McGuinness.
It's no surprise that the book is very critical of whole language, invented spelling, and such. But the real win for me was its critique of (traditional) phonics. Most phonics teaching stinks. It's unsystematic, and riddled with false claims and utterly confused classifications. Phonics is the way to go, but you do have to get it right.
Most controversial will be its claim that there is no such thing as dyslexia. If you or a family member are "dyslexic" or "LD", by all means get and read this book.
The book argues that dyslexia is not inborn but the result of being intellectually maimed by teaching mistakes. You can verify for yourself that these mistakes are pervasive throughout our school system and you can satisfy yourself that they are indeed mistakes: they are false statements about the writing system of English. One consequence of that is that the smarter the child, the more deeply he or she gets wedged if commanded to believe nonsense.
The book also claims that dyslexics can be rescued.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any parent or teacher. 6 Aug 1999
By A Customer
The Reading Wars have heated up; however, this time the twoopponents are not whole word and phonics; it is "the proper way to teach our writing code (phoneme awareness programs)" and all of the others.
Diane McGuinness, using the scientific approach -- not pseudoscience -- has made an exhaustive study of, many writing systems, and has extracted the proper manner to teach our reading code.
She critiques many different reading programs and their so-called research: Whole word is disastrous; whereas, phonics is not complete.
As required by the scientific method, she has set up the proper experimental designs and conducted research to validate her approach.
All of her findings are statistically significant.
Dyslexic and ADD children have been taught how to read using her approach -- Diane's work questions the legitimacy of these educational "symptoms."
Easy to read. Chock full of goodies. A must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The reviewer in the first review listed asserts that Dr. McGuinness "may have overstated her case" in that there is "only one way to teach [reading]". What Dr. Mcguinness actually says is that there is a BEST way to teach reading. The distinction is important, since even Dr. McGuinness acknowledges that a (slim) majority of children taught by whole language will actually succeed in learning to read. But a slim majority is something to be more ashamed than proud of. Her discussion of the history of writing systems and their relationship to the spoken language is lucid and compelling. Her follow through on the research related to the acquisition of reading is equally brilliant. I have started tracking down the references listed in her bibliography, and if anything, she has for reasons of space limitations given us an inadequate picture of the colossal amount of research in support of her position. I cannot believe that any thinking person who follows the trails of her bibliography will fail to be outraged at the pseudoscientific, intellectually bankrupt nonsense that is being foisted on our children under the label of whole language (or should that be "hole langwij"?). Using her ideas and the methods outlined in her other publications as well as those of her son and his wife, my own oldest child--age 5-- is well on her way to being an independent reader. I can't recommend this enough.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As a teacher with advanced degrees in reading and learning disabilities, I have never read a more concise, persuasive (and useful) book. Ms. McGuinness's research results certainly changed my professional direction. I bought Reading Reflex as well, became a certified Phono-Graphix instructor/trainer, and have built a successful reading therapy practice. EVERY client has succeeded using this approach (average: 24 session-hours). The sad part is the non-believers and the naysayers, those teachers and administrators who refuse to acknowledge the power of the evidence, refuse to read about this paradigm shift in instruction, and refuse to discuss the new possibilities for struggling readers of any age. Some even attempt to deny the obvious results! All I can say is I consult my copy of this book so often that it's falling apart--and I've just ordered a second copy from Amazon!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An educational time bomb! 5 Jan 1998
By A Customer
Hello?...educators...anybody READ MUCH? I do and this is what I picked for fun one night...it changed my life! With 2 college-age kids I thought I was done with "school daze." Wrong. After reading this book non-stop, I immediately signed up & trained in Phono-Graphix & now volunteer teaching 16-18 year olds (who can barely read) what they should have been taught in 1st grade...and it's WORKING!!! I'm also starting teen literacy groups where kids mentor kids in reading (yes, it's that good that even kids can teach it -kinda makes you want to cry), and training private tutors and public school teachers. I can only say "read it" but don't weep, join the Reading Revolution & make a difference in someone's life, maybe even your own--by b r EA k i NG TH e WR i TT EN c o DE...it's easy with the info Diane gives.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening read
As a teacher this book gives a valuable insight into the behaviour of children with autism. I could relate to much of what was written and hopefully be more aware of how these... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. L. Jardine
1.0 out of 5 stars A one-eyed book but with good vision in the remaining eye!
This is a strange book: it's `true believer' rhetoric is irritating to put it mildly. When it steps outside the area of competence of its author (strategies for the practice of... Read more
Published on 5 Sep 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible resource for teaching reading.
At the urging of a kindergarten teacher I read this book. I have been teaching for 5 years and never felt that I truly had the proper skill or approach to teaching reading. Read more
Published on 8 July 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars I was captured by the information presented.
I appreciated the indepth study of our English language presented in this book. I was captured by the information on language development and the connections to the... Read more
Published on 1 May 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars This title should have been: How Every Child *Can* Read
As a parent searching for help for my child, I was transformed by this brilliant book. It is thick with information, but McGuinness is a clear, careful writer, so it's easy to... Read more
Published on 8 Jan 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars I really needed this book.
On the very first page of her book, Diane McGuinness profiled a boy whose reading and writing issues were so much like my daughter's that I knew for once I was reading a book that... Read more
Published on 13 Oct 1997
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