Archive for the 'Bookshelf' Category

Thompson Road by Scott Wyatt

Because he thought I would be interested in reviewing it, Scott Wyatt, an author of contemporary fiction, sent me a copy of a new title called “Thompson Road.” The reasons he thought it was fitting for LD Blog will become clear as I describe the story.

Thompson Road follows adolescents who grow into adulthood in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s-40s-50s. Mr.’s Wyatt’s choice of this time allows him to highlight many important ideas that touch on how people personally view learning disabilities (LD) and on issues about public policy in disabilities. But that’s not what Thompson Road is really about.
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Moats on CCSS and LD

In the spring of 2012, Louisa Moats published an article in New Times for DLD, the newsletter of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children, that presented concerns about the consequences of US states’ adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on the teaching and learning of students with Learning Disabilities. Moats, who is well-known for her work on early literacy and professional development, noted that the CCSS consists of goals that must be turned into curricula and lesson plans by others, and it is those instructional procedures that will be critical for students with or at risk of developing Learning Disabilities. Given how common students with Learning Disabilities, language problems, and other learning risks are, Moats said that instructional practices cannot leave mastery of fundamental skills up to incidental learning or embedded instruction.

With the recent promotion of the CCSS’ emphasis on informational text, complex text, reading aloud, and inquiry-based learning, the kind of instruction most necessary and beneficial for students with LD is getting very little emphasis in workshops, publications, and policy discussions. The teacher-directed, systematic, sequential, explicit approaches that work best for students with LD and learning challenges (Archer & Hughes, 2011) are receiving much less attention than they deserve, and the result will be lower student achievement, not higher.

Moats made additional points, including a strong appeal for advocating to prepare educators to teach literacy skills effectively. Interested readers can obtain a copy of the full copy of “Reconciling the CCSS with Realities of Learning Disabilities” from the DLD Web site,

[Disclosure: I’m associated with DLD as a member, a former officer, and its executive director.]

K. Ellison again

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Katherine Ellison has appeared on multiple media outlets promoting her book, Buzz. She had another entry, this time in the Washington Post yesterday (20 November 2010). Given the recent release of the US Centers for Disease Control prevalence study, this is pretty timely and, award-winning journalist that she is, Ms. Ellison notes the connection in her lead.

As the mother of a teenager who got a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in 2004, I wasn’t surprised to read the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said the number of ADHD cases in children jumped by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007 – an increase of 1 million kids.

But, she goes on to add lots more good content to her op-ed piece published under the headline “Doing battle with the ADHD-industrial complex.”
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NCLD report

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a US advocacy group, released a report entitled “The State of Learning Disabilities” today. The report presents broad-strokes data about Learning Disabilities (LD) across the life span, including (for example) data about not only school environments, but also work situations.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The identification rate of school-age students with LD has consistently declined for the past 10 years
  • Learning disabilities disproportionately affect people living in poverty
  • People of all races are identified with LD at about the same rate (except people of Asian descent), and,
  • The cost of educating a student with LD is 1.6 times higher than a regular education student (compared with 1.9 for all students with disabilities).

Link to the report.

Sigh–new content

Despite getting virtually no recommendations about future content (3 votes!), I’m starting to post some new content. The new content is, in my obviously biased view (else, why would I post it?), pretty important stuff. It’s about research, practice, knowledge, and all that sort of stuff as it connects to Learning Disabilities. In this page, I discuss big-idea concepts that recur in Learning Disabilities. These are the themes that one sees when one reads a diverse array of literature on the topic of LD.

I recommend it. What’s more, you won’t have to find this post each time you want to refer to the page; it will always be directly accessible under the “special content” link in the top navigation bar.

Proust and the squid

The current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine includes a review of Maryanne Wolf ‘s new book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Professor Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine briefly comments on Professor Wolf’s book and raises a particularly important point.

Professor Wolf is a widely known cognitive neuroscientist and scholar who has studied reading and dyslexia extensively. In her book, she traces the relatively recent history of reading—alphabets are only about 5000 years old, so reading can be no older—and argues that the phylogenic development of reading has changed the human brain. Using contemporary research about dyslexia, she explains what happens in learners’ brains when they have difficulty with the fundamental decoding of print.

Dr. Schlaggar’s review recounts some of these features of Professor Wolf’s book. He also challenges a couple of points in the book. One is a seemingly contradictory idea Professor Wolf presents and the other is the omission of a idea that loyal readers will recognize as a theme of LD Blog.

One puzzling theme in the book involves the story that Socrates expressed tremendous reticence with regard to communication of thought via reading and writing. He believed, we are told, that reading and writing would denigrate the intellect. Wolf simultaneously presents a clear argument for why Socrates was wrong — that the written word has facilitated intellectual development in a literate society — and an opinion that his perspective ought to be heeded as we delve deeper into the era of digital information. This theme is puzzling because the Internet is, in this context, another cultural invention. Great opportunities await us in the digital age, including access to a larger number of virtual texts than any single physical library could contain. Is there peril in the enormity and simultaneity of information, as Wolf suggests? Perhaps, but the same arguments regarding the remarkable capacity of our brains to take on the formidable task of learning to read apply here.

One topic that deserved attention but did not receive it in this otherwise impressively complete account is the importance of identifying evidence-based interventions for reading impairment. Few dyslexia remediation products are in existence today, and those that are available show uneven efficacy when they are tested rigorously. The growing scientific literature on reading, described so effectively in this book, suggests that there should be better ways to treat the disorder, and Wolf’s thoughts on this topic would have rounded out the discussion.

I admire Professor Wolf’s scholarship. I’m very glad that Dr. Schlagger raised the concern about evidence-based reading instruction; it’s a key one in my view. Anyone who has read Proust and the Squid should drop a comment about it or about Dr. Schlagger’s review (or both) or about my biases about reading, for that matter.

Link to first 100 words of Dr. Schlagger’s review. (If you’re a subscriber or browsing from an IP address within the range of a subscribing institution, you can get the full text.)

Wolf, M. M. (2007). Proust and the squid: The story and science of the reading brain. New York: Harper.

LD international

Seeing the stories by Ms. Gifty Quarcoo from Africa reminded me that the special issue of Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (LDR&P) on international perspectives on Learning Disabilities is progressing toward publication. I don’t see an previous references to it in entries here on LD Blog, so let me note it here.

A marvelous group of scholars from different parts of the Earth have contributed to a special issue of LDR&P. Here is an alphabetical list of the contents of the issue.

  • Abosi, O. (In press). Educating children with learning disabilities in Africa. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Correia, L. M., & Martins, A. P. L. (In press). Specific learning disabilities and the Portuguese educational system. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Gumple, T. P., & Sharoni, V. (In press). Current best-practices in learning disabilities in Israel. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Jiménez, J. E., & Cadena, C. G. (In press). Learning disabilities in Guatemala and Spain: A cross-national study of the prevalence and cognitive processes associated with reading and spelling disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Jung, D. Y. South Korean perspectives on learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Thygesen, R. (In press). Students with learning disabilities: An update on Norwegian educational policy, practice, and research. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).
  • Tzeng, S.-J. (In press). Learning disabilities in Taiwan. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 22(3).

Along with my colleagues, Clay Keller and Li-Yu Hung, I was pleased to be able to act as editor for the special issue. I hope that it will help people around the world gain greater understanding of Learning Disabilities. Thanks to Charlie Hughes, editor of LDR&P, and the Division for Learning Disabilities for allowing us to assemble this fine set of articles.

P. Zirkel passout

Zirkel book advertisementLast year I posted a note about a new book by Perry A. Zirkel, University Professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University. By way of calling attention to that book—The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability for Special Education Eligibility—again, here’s a link to a page where one can download a copy of the passout that Professor Zirkel provided when he spoke at CEC’s annual conference this just-passed April.
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Reading canon

Liz Ditz took the initiative and launched a wiki where people can contribute to the development of a canon on reading. This is predicated on earlier posts here on Teach Effectively (here and here) and Liz’s I Speak of Dreams (here).

The wiki will make an interesting experiment in Internet-mediated interactions. Check it here.

Legal meaning of LD

Perry Zirkel, a professor at Lehigh University, has a new book that probably will be of interest to some readers of LD Blog. It’s called, “The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability” and has just (2006) been published. It is supposed to be marketed by the Council for Exceptional Children, but I do not see it yet in CEC’s “store.” Check again later, or search the Internet.

Link to more about Mr. Zirkel and to the CEC store.