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Education Reporter

Book of the Month
The Hidden Story
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The Hidden Story, Geraldine E. Rodgers, B.A., M.S., 1st Books, 1998, 628 pps., $28.05

Geraldine Rodgers packs 20 years of comprehensive research along with 23 years of elementary school teaching experience into this fascinating and complex history of reading instruction. She even visits the worlds of the ancient Greeks and Etruscans while tracing the history of what she terms "the teaching of psycholinguistic guessing" (sight reading) to beginning readers, which "manifestly results in lifelong disability." She writes that the failure of modern "Whole Language" instruction has successfully been kept hidden since 1930 when oral tests for accuracy in reading and spelling were banished from most classrooms and replaced with "silent reading" tests on which students employ "intelligent guessing."

Rodgers began her quest during the mid-1970s after becoming painfully aware of the extent of her 3rd grade students' reading disabilities. She took a sabbatical from teaching and embarked on a year-long journey during which she tested the oral reading skills of about 900 2nd graders in their own languages in the United States and Europe. She found two distinct types of readers (or mixtures of those types) based on whether the children were taught to read by "sound" (phonics) or by "meaning" (whole word context) in the first grade.

In 1978, she stumbled upon the fact that these two types of readers had been identified 75 years previously (in 1903) by German researcher Oskar Messmer. She spent the next 18 years investigating why such facts in the history of reading as Messmer's research have been buried.

She found that, while our present-day whole language instruction can be traced back to the 1870s and the teachings of "America's first experimental psychologist, William James," its roots actually predate James to the "Age of Enlightenment" in the 18th century.

Rodgers' painstaking research took her to the Library of Congress, the Harvard libraries, the British Library in London, the University of Chicago, and many other research centers. The Hidden Story is a compelling summary of her findings.

Available at Barnes & Noble, ISBN #1-58500-022-1, or 1st Books Online Library (disk or download), www.1stbooks.com, 205 N. College Ave., Bloomington, IN 47404.

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