1997 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Detroit, Michigan
Reading is a complex act of constructing meaning. Research has shown that successful readers bring to this act a rich background of personal experiences, a repertoire of strategies and skills, and a knowledge of how language and text work. Although beginning readers have less experience with written text, the same basic processes underlie their reading. When the press, legislators, and policymakers ignore this research, the definition of reading is often reduced to nothing more than successfully sounding out words. The impact of this limited view has been decisions which reduce the ability of teachers to make instructional decisions, as evidenced by California currently allocating more than $300,000,000 to phonics-based readers. Such a decision seriously constrains teachers’ and children’s access to a full range of literacy resources. Instead of phonics as one important strategy used by all readers, it has been elevated to represent reading itself, especially for beginning readers. Be it therefore
Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English declare that reading is a complex process of constructing meaning;
that phonics for beginning as well as experienced readers is only one part of the complex, socially constructed, and cognitively demanding process called reading;
that all readers need to learn a range of reading strategies, including phonics; that it is the professional responsibility of teachers to develop extensive knowledge of reading and a repertoire of teaching strategies to adapt to the needs of individual children in order to ensure success;
that NCTE urge policymakers and legislators to affirm that decisions about reading instruction are primarily the responsibility of professional educators; and
that NCTE establish a continuous dialogue with other professional literacy organizations on reading and reading instruction.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.