Are We Ready for This? What the Movement to Legislate “Science of Reading” in Classrooms Means for Children’s Use of Libraries

Currently over 22 states have passed bills legislating that schools must teach reading utilizing only “Science of Reading” (SOR) curricula. SOR espouses that all children learn to read through just one instructional approach that emphasizes phonics, drills and decodable books with limited vocabulary. Curricula that emphasizes independent reading of authentic literature and emphasis on comprehension are considered ineffective and to be removed from the classroom. The SOR stance is highly controversial among literacy researchers but well-funded SOR groups have been able to market effectively and garner support among legislators. 

As literacy educators, children’s librarians and school librarians need to be informed about both sides of this issue so that they can communicate with concerned parents and understand the possible effects on libraries that focus on children becoming lifelong readers. This webinar provides an overview of the current situation, discusses ways that library services to children will likely be affected, and discusses how library staff can prepare and educate themselves for their particular state’s situation. Finally, participants will discuss how to protect the child’s right to reading for enjoyment regardless of pressures from classroom curriculum and State Boards of Education.

Presented live: April 14, 2022

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be able to verbalize the basic pros and cons of the Science of Reading movement and instructional approach. 
  • Participants will be able to find information on a particular state's position on Science of Reading. 
  • Participants will be able to respond to parent and educator requests resulting from increased classroom emphasis on phonics, drills, and decodable books. 
  • Participants will be able to identify potential threats to children's right to reading for enjoyment.

ALSC Core Competencies

  • Recognizes systems of oppression, discrimination, and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts and/or counteracts them by way of culturally aware services. (1.2)
  • Understand current educational practices, especially those related to literacy and inquiry. (1.5)
  • Ensures that all children and their families have full access to library materials, resources, and services as prescribed by the ALA's Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations. (5.5)
  • Follows federal, state and local legislation in the development and enactment of library policies and procedures. (6.6)
  • Stays informed of current trends, emerging technologies, issues, and research in librarianship, child development, early and family literacy, education, and allied field. (7.2)

Lu Benke, PhD, brings to her presentations experiences from over 35 years as a children’s librarian as well as the best of recent research from her Master’s in Reading and PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. She is passionate about identifying and strengthening the connections between what libraries do and what research indicates creates lifelong readers. She currently consults through Linking Libraries and Literacy and presents nationally on topics such as current trends in the teaching of reading, the practice of leveling books, identifying authentic rural picture books, and the history of children’s librarianship.

Jim Erekson, PhD, has been teaching language and literacy at the college level since 1989. His Ph.D. in learning and development (Michigan State, 2000) focused on language and literacy development. He has a wide K-12 background in both elementary and secondary schools, including research, teaching, and consultation. His professional work and publications focus on helping readers who don’t have a clear path forward and interpreting children’s literature. He is currently Associate Professor of Reading at University of Northern Colorado.