Saturday, October 24, 2020

Restarting the “science of reading” conversation


Restarting the “science of reading” conversation (The Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

I read the above post on Twitter and noted the author Robert Pondiscio is yet another SoR proponent.

There are many so-called educators who block me when I ask relevant questions, ignore without responding, give some idiotic excuses and there are those who say they will get back to me and then don’t keep their promise.


Robert Pondiscio, is an SoR proponent who falls in the last category above.

Here are my emails to and from him written more than 3 years ago.

The article I have referred to in my email to him may be found here. Extracts from the article were highlighted in blue on my email to Robert Pondiscio.


Here is my 1st email to this guy on 23.7.2017.

Subject: Re: Reading and wronging

On Jul 23, 2017, at 12:16 AM, luqman michel <> wrote:


 Dear Mr. Robert Pondiscio

 I read your article in Education Next on Language at the speed of light - Review.


 I would like to discuss a few things with you please.


 I will wait for your response to see if you do get this message.

 Thank you and kind regards,

 Luqman Michel


He responded as follows:

Let me know how I can help you.

I then wrote a lengthy email as follows:

On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 1:26 PM, luqman michel <> wrote:


    Dear Mr. Robert Pondiscio,

    Thank you for your prompt response.


    I am not a trained teacher but I quit my job as Finance manager to research and learn why kids shut-down. This was the result of a friend pleading with me to teach his son who was unable to read even a single sentence in English despite having been in kindergarten for one year and one year in grade school. Since then I have successfully taught about 50 such kids.


    All the kids who had come to me for tuition on a one on one basis could read well in Malay and some who go to Chinese schools could read in romanised Mandarin but not in English.


    This led me to write to about 20 experts who wrote that phonological awareness deficit (PAD) was the main cause of kids being unable to read. It appeared that just because one expert had said that PAD is the cause of children not being able to read more than a 100 researchers quoted him without knowing what they are writing about.


    To cut the story short even after exchanges of many emails not one of the experts wanted to change their stance. Two were kind and asked me to write a research report.


    Coming back to what I want to write to you – I would like to comment on what I read in your article and would be grateful for your response.


    He wants his readers to share his fury at the “profound disconnection between the science of reading and educational practice” that he deftly unpacks.


    Why is there still such a disconnection in a country that had sent man to the moon nearly 50 years ago?


    By culture of education Seidenberg means “the beliefs and attitudes about how children learn, the role of the teacher, and the educational mission that dominate the schools of education, which are the main pathway into the profession.” His critique is unsparing. “Parents who proudly bring their children to school on the first day of kindergarten are making a big mistake,” he writes. “They assume that their child’s teacher has been taught how to teach reading. They haven’t.”


    This is what I would like to talk about. Teachers are not only not teaching correctly but their wrong teaching is the cause of many kids leaving school as illiterates.

    I believe a certain percentage of kids are wired (predisposed) a little different from the majority. They need to be taught logically and when things are not logical or confusing they shut-down and disengage from reading.


    There are a lot of articles all over the internet saying children are not being taught well. There are many places in ‘The Children of the Code’ where it repeatedly says that there should be more effective teaching but even after 15 years of work they have yet to say what exactly is the problem nor the solution for it.


    From my experience in teaching such kids, I believe these kids shut down when what they had been taught earlier contradicts what is taught later on. This is the point at which they shut down – they shut down because they are confused. This was even mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping point where he says that kids stop watching Sesame Street when they are confused. If a child can stop watching a show such as Sesame Street because he is confused what more when he is confused with what the teacher is teaching?


    There are 2 main reasons why the kids I have taught shut down.

    i.                     They are taught sounds represented by letters wrongly.

    ii.                   They are not told that letters in the English language represent more than one sound.


    Please keep in mind that these children could read in one or two languages which both use the same 26 letters as does the English language.


    A majority of kids can somehow manage to read whether they are taught phonics or whole language but a certain percentage of kids prone to shutting down will shut down regardless of the method of teaching.

    i.                     They are taught sounds represented by letters wrongly.


    Please listen to at least a portion of these 3 videos to see what I mean by teaching the sounds represented by letters wrongly. (All the following videos were subsequently deleted. I am adding this note now as at 23.10.2020)

    a. v=3s57HonYXDQ

    b. v=e52MeJIRibo

    c. blog/8-essential-skills-for- children-to-learn-how-to-read- and-spell/

    The 3rd video is one from Australia and this is how it is taught in many countries. You can hear it under skill 2 between minutes 1.48 and 3.05 in the video

    One should not add vowel sounds to consonants as they confuse some children and yet this is done all over the world thus causing kids to disengage from reading.


    ii.                   They are not told that letters in the English language represent more than one sound.


    When you listen to most ‘educational videos’ or teachers teaching in kindergarten you will hear ‘a’ for apple, ‘b’ for bed, ‘c’ for cat and so on until z,

    Then the teacher starts teaching without explaining to the kids that letters represent more than one sound.


    A is for apple and they give the sound of ‘a’ as ‘air….pple’ All the kids learn this easily. Later the teacher teaches words such as ‘arm’, ‘ace’, ‘all’, ‘around’. Why won’t the kid prone to shutting down shut-down? Here the sounds represented by the letter ‘a’ are completely different from what they have been taught.

    Even consonants represent more than one sound. The kids will learn this if they have been explicitly told this.



    “If the whole language/balanced literacy approach is as flawed as described, many children will struggle to learn,” Seidenberg insists.

    I believe that the shut down kids will shut down either way. This may be able to be checked out by looking at how many kids left school as illiterates when they were taught whole language and when they were taught phonics.


    Fewer children would need Reading Recovery if they had received appropriate instruction in the first place.

    This statement is all over the internet but what is appropriate instruction?

    Appropriate instruction will include:

    i.                     Don’t teach sounds represented by letters wrongly.

    ii.                   Tell kids that letters represent more than one sound and point out when new sounds are read and it will reduce the number of kids leaving school as illiterates.


    Reading science has moved on, but education has not. Of course, people should not be faulted for making erroneous claims decades ago, Seidenberg insists. “People should be faulted, however, for having made definitive claims based on weak evidence, for sticking with them long after they’ve been contradicted beyond reasonable doubt, and for continuing to market their stories to a trusting but scientifically naïve audience.”

    But researchers who have made erroneous claims should be ‘big’ enough to admit their fault and move on for a better tomorrow.

    Has ‘Reading Science’ discovered why otherwise smart kids are unable to learn to read? Has ‘Reading Science’ found out why kids can read in many languages using the same letters as English but are unable to read in English?


    And while U.S. reading scores compare poorly to those in many other countries, decoding is a relative strength here, thanks to phonics, which, despite Seidenberg’s complaints, has made some headway in American classrooms. Where we really fall down is in teaching children to read with understanding.

    Teaching with understanding etc comes at a later stage. First teach phonics correctly to ensure children do not shut-down.


    ….children cannot thrive in school and beyond unless they first earn their “licenses” as proficient readers.

    I teach these kids who come to me usually after 2 years in kindergarten and a few months into grade 1 or when they are in grade 2. I teach them to unlearn what they have been taught wrongly and wean them within 4 months of tuition at one hour a session three times a week.

    I look forward to your comments,

    Wish you well,

    Luqman Michel

Here is his response:

Robert Pondiscio <>

To:luqman Michel Wed, 26 Jul 2017 at 05:22

Good afternoon.  It's unclear what you want me to respond to.  Surely you don't expect me to be an apologist for the state of teacher education in the U.S.

The following is my response to his email above.

On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:23 PM, luqman michel <> wrote:


    Thank you for your response.

    No, I don't expect you to apologise for the state of teacher education. NO!


    I have given you 3 videos to listen to. This is what is available to the whole world.

    These are the videos that confuse kids and teachers use the same method to teach kids.

    Is there anything we can do about it?


    Wish you well.

    Luqman Michel

Here is his final response:

   Robert Pondiscio <>

To:luqman Michel Wed, 26 Jul 2017 at 05:31

I will try to find time to watch them, but I'll have to ask you to be patient with me.  I'm writing a book at the moment, which is consuming an extraordinary amount of time.  


Note: I have corrected a few typos but otherwise the contents are as above.


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