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Posted 03.31.08


Historical writings should be a source for solving today's problems, says MU professor's new book

COLUMBIA, MO - A University of Missouri literacy expert doesn't understand why people have not learned from the past. A new book on literacy education uses historical writings to show that topics related to teaching literacy, that are widely debated today, are the same issues educators argued about 100 years ago.

"In education, we often hear people say 'why don't we do it the way we did when I was growing up.' Yet when we see the doctor, nobody wants to be treated with the same methods that were used decades ago," said Dick Robinson, professor of learning, teaching and curriculum in the MU College of Education and editor of the book.

In his book, "Issues and Innovations in Literacy Education", Robinson states it is unfortunate that what often is considered today to be "innovative or new" is, in reality, little more than teaching philosophies and techniques that have been tried and found lacking in the past. The book encourages educators to consider the writings of past literacy teachers instead of thinking of their writings as dated.

The book presents a variety of opinions on controversial topics ranging from how to teach phonics and reading comprehension to testing and assessments. It is a collection of articles outlining what literacy educators of the past thought and how their legacies can be a foundation for modern literacy educators.

For example, in today's classroom, modern technology competes with reading. The average amount of time children spend watching television, using a computer or various other electronic devices may seem like a new problem. However, this problem is not new. An article in Robinson's book -- "Challenges Facing the Teacher of Reading in 1957" -- which cites radio and television as major problems competing for children's time. The solution from 1957: to develop a program to utilize television as an education force. This sounds much like the advice given to teachers of today to incorporate technology into the classroom.

According to Robinson, another issue educators often rehash is how to get children to develop a love of reading. He believes the answer is quite simple: give them something they enjoy reading.

"I don't know of any other book that had kids in line at midnight for a copy besides the Harry Potter series," Robinson said. "We live in a time in which a children's book on nearly every topic is readily available. Reading should be fun for children no matter where their interests lie."



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