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Report of the NEA Task Force on Reading 2000


The NEA Task Force on Reading was convened in October 1999 to develop "comprehensive guidelines for NEA members related to reading instruction. According to its official charge, "The guidelines, based on both research and promising practice, will help members as they plan instruction, select programs and materials, and influence state and local policiy related to reading."

Task Force members, all of them practicing teachers, delivered their report the following year. They agreed on three key points around which the report's recommendations revolve.

  • There is no one way to teach reading that works for all children all the time.

  • The teacher, not the method, makes the real difference in reading success.

  • Teachers cannot do the job without the support of the community and good policy.

Rather than engage in the ongoing and politicized debate over phonetics versus whole language, the NEA Task Force focused instead on describing complete reading programs. The promotion of complete reading programs would include recognition of several critical aspects of reading achievement.

  1. A complete reading program includes the development of language and thinking skills as well as phonemic awareness; phonics, decoding; word recognition; comprehension; positive reading habits and attitudes; vocabulary; and a sense of the organization of texts such as stories, articles, and reports. All are essential to addressing all the components in the early states of literacy learning.

  2. A complete reading program addresses reading as one of several aspects of literacy. Others include listening, speaking, writing, using information from text, and responding thoughtfully and critically to text.

  3. A complete reading program builds on the cultural and linguistic diversity that students bring to the classroom and enables all students to understand and appreciate cultural diversity.

  4. A complete reading program provides for the reading success of all students, including those with special needs. Materials and instruction are adapted to accommodate those students.

  5. A complete reading program involves all of the child's teachers, including parents and resources in the community providing language development and models of the importance of reading.

  6. A complete reading program provides teachers with the instructional and assessment tools to plan and deliver to each student the instructional activities that best support that individual's achieving a high level of reading proficiency.

  7. A complete reading program aims to rasie the achievement of all students. Therefore, it must be flexible in meeting the needs of all students. This might entail more instructional time for some students and more access to books for others. It might emphasize more opportunities to develop thinking skills related to reading for some students while providing more opportunities to develop fluency for others.

  8. A complete reading program acknowledges that reading, like all cognitive skills, is linked to the physical well-being of children. That well-being starts before birth with sound prenatal care and continues with healthcare for preschoolers as well as school-age children. It involves parents having adequate knowledge about providing for their children's health and development.

  9. A complete reading program is built on a wide range of significant research and thinking related to both the theory and practice of reading instaruction. Significant research and thinking includes experimental studies; descriptive studies; case studies (a realistic way to conduct research on whole school programs); meta analyses of research; and reasonable, reflective writings on theory and best practice. While some advocate using only experimental research in planning reading programs, doing so eliminates important contributions to the understanding of how children develop language and reading skills. For example, Piaget and Vygotsky, two influential contributors to the understanding of learning in youong children, did no experimental studies.

  10. A complete reading program incorporates findings of research related to several factors in reading, not just a limited set of skills. Beginning readers, for example, need to learn about the structure of stories and sentences as well as word structure of words, which means that research in those areas is important. Another area of relevant research involves the variety of characteristics of materials used with beginning readers. Recent research, such as that on the importance of young students having access to classroom libraries of rich, multilevel reading materials, should also be considered.

A complete reading program, the Task Force contends, is in several ways like a balanced diet. "Completeness in both diet and rading is achieved by providing diverse components in ratios that are not necessarily equal," states the Report. Ratios might vary with individual needs and with development. "For example, infants do not eat five servings of frutis and vegetables as recommended for children and adults. In a similar fashion, beginning readers might require different amounts of certain types of reading activities than more proficient readers. Just as some infants do not do well on milk products and need special formulae, so beginning readers may have special instructional needs."

The report also offers guidelines for teachers, parents, policy makers, and the public for use in planning, implementing, and monitoring the effectiveness of complete reading programs. The goal is to encourage a setting that provides the following:

  • Reading achievement for all students

  • Guidance in selecting and developing programs and materials

  • Time, resources, and professional development for planning instruction

  • Policies that promote complete reading programs

The report provides specific suggestions within these areas and concludes with an extensive list of references and resources, as well as two appendices.


Report of the NEA Task Force on Reading 2000   ( PDF, 76 KB, 30pp)