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When this piece airs, or does whatever an online article does when it actually goes online, I will have been at the University of Minnesota for 29 years, having been hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Secondary Education in September 1970. A lot has, of course, changed in those 29 years -- at the University of Minnesota, in the world of reading, and in the world of learning more generally. At the university, the Department of Secondary Education has been absorbed into the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. In the world of reading, skills management systems and scope and sequences have disappeared, while whole language, literature-based instruction, the reading wars, phonemic awareness, balanced instruction, and a host of other concerns, causes, and conflicts have emerged. And in the world of learning, the cognitive revolution and schema theory are now part of the old guard, while constructivism, situated learning, and sociocultural concerns are just a few of the new features of today's learning landscape.
But one thing has not changed. Reading for secondary students -- in fact, reading for students beyond the primary and lower elementary grades -- gets relatively little attention. Here in the United States, as elsewhere around the world, there is widespread acceptance of the importance of higher levels of literacy for students, levels that can only be achieved across the years of elementary and secondary school -- and beyond. Yet despite this acceptance, most educators, researchers, and policy makers focus their attention on the lower grades. For example, the report on reading most often cited in the U.S. literature at the moment, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), concentrates on preschool through third... [continues]
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