Sensory-Cognitive Factors in the Controversy Over Reading Instruction
This paper presents information on the historical background of the long-standing controversy over methods of teaching reading, and cites findings on the current seriously inadequate levels of literacy documented in America. It is argued that the low literacy levels and the controversy over teaching methods are likely to continue until attention turns from reading methods to the reading process, and the direct development of two important sensory-cognitive functions that support and enhance oral and written language processing. Evidence is presented that, although genetic differences exist in individuals’ spontaneous access to these sensory cognitive functions, they can be developed through appropriate intervention either preventively or remedially. Descriptions are provided of specific instructional procedures that develop these sensory-cognitive functions, to illustrate the conscious level of sensory feedback and integration that must be experientially elicited through Socratic questioning. This questioning must respond to students’ responses to meet students at the level of their processing. It enables both children and adults to be moved by small steps of reasoning to discover concepts involved in becoming self-correcting in language and literacy learning. The position is taken that the direct development of these sensory-cognitive functions needs to be widely addressed, and that the conceptual base they provide permits students to experience success in learning to read regardless of which reading method is used. This would help to dissipate the controversy over reading methods and allow attention and effort to focus on the process of reading.