Reading Wars Redux:  The Science of Reading  

Episode 2-5 Reading Wars Redux:  The Science of Reading 

Show Notes 



Folks have been debating how to teach reading at least since 1985.  At that time, the issue was framed as top-down vs. bottom-up.   


This makes the debate seem “tidy,” just two sides with clear delineation.   You were FOR phonics (bottom up) or you were FOR textual understanding (top down), but you couldn’t be for both.  In truth, there were no teachers then or now who don’t value both, who don’t tailor their teaching to the instructional moment of their students, individually and collectively. 


Well, we’re at the reading wars again, but the slogan now is “the science of reading” and all the educational reformers are hopping on the bandwagon.  In this episode, we ask teachers to make sense of the science of reading and what it has to do with the real challenges and real joys in helping youngsters become readers. 


00:00  Introduction to the Second Season Dr. Barbara Stengel 


The “Reading Wars” are back!!  Stengel 


DC teacher Katie Mazenko on complexity and challenge  Mazenko;  Stengel 


Is balance bad??  How to get skill, will and thrill. Stengel; Sara Abu Rumman, IN public school literacy coach 

11:49   A new teacher faces the challenge   Maddie Bernards, 1st grade teacher in CA; Stengel 


What’s developmentally “normal” in reading development?   Stengel; Mazenko; Sarah Ockenhouse, 3rd grade Nashville teacher 


Joy in skill development and watching kids become readers   Stengel; Ockenhouse 


And why test scores don’t reflect actual development?  Stengel; Ockenhouse 


What do reading researchers think?  Don’t legislate!  Stengel 


Understanding the value of phonics in learning to read  Stengel; Cara Furman, Hunter College 


Juggling the different needs of youngsters learning to read

Stengel; Furman 


The important of teacher autonomy in teaching reading  Stengel; Krystal Dillard, co-Director,  


Curriculum and materials that encourage reading and readers  Stengel; Dillard 


Structured literacy is back!  In a context of external controls   Stengel; Ocheze Joseph, Director of Teacher Education, American University 


(How) Are novice teachers prepared to take this on?  Stengel; Ockenhouse; Bernards 


Can the system shift to make first rate reading instruction possible for all?  Stengel, Bernards; Abu Rumman;  


What motivates the slogan “science of reading”?  Maybe money, maybe politics  Stengel;  Dillard 


Relationships and teacher judgment in the face of a “manufactured crisis”: the Chasing Bailey touchstone  Stengel 



59:16  Join us next time to think about choice as it impacts concrete interactions between teachers and students (and yes, parents too!) 



Many thanks to the guests who agreed to inform our thinking for this episode!   These include Katelyn Mazenko, Sara Abu Rumman, Maddie Bernards, Dr. Cara Furman, Krystal Dillard, Sarah Ockenhouse, and Dr. Ocheze Joseph. 


As usual, there are references to a variety of social, educational and historical news and commentary. You can pursue our sources and find out more about these issues at our website:




















Our Host is Barb Stengel, an emerita professor of educational practice at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and also emerita professor at Millersville University. She is an educator, a self-described fan of the Bailey experiment, and an advocate for public schooling but a strong critic of how public schooling has strayed from educational intentions. 

Between 2012 and 2016, Barb spent one day a week at Bailey, coordinating the school’s collaboration with Peabody, and serving as an informal cheerleader while also learning from this remarkable effort. She knew early on it was a story worth telling. So she spent a year interviewing dozens of staff, students, parents, and district administrators who were eager to talk about their experiences.  

Barb is now retired from Vanderbilt University but she continues to find ways to highlight the work of educators and to criticize (constructively) the figures and forces that get in educators’ way. 



Chasing Bailey is hosted and narrated by Dr. Barbara Stengel, Vanderbilt University. 


This episode was edited and co-produced by Brenna Fallon and Kayley Yantis.  The executive producer is Dr. Lowery Woodall, Millersville University of Pennsylvania. 


Our theme for Season 2 is Folk Music 2 by Caffeine Creek Band.  In addition, we have incorporated one other Caffeine Creek Band musical tracks:  Sunshine and Flowers. You can find these tunes at 


New episodes will (usually) drop on the first day of the month during the school year.  You can find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon, and Stitcher, and nearly anywhere else you find your podcasts. 


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