The Miskin way is distilled from great experience

1st July 2011 at 01:00

The criticism of my friend Ruth Miskin (Letters, 10 June) shows nothing so much as the sorry state of much of our professional knowledge about reading and the debate surrounding it.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I reviewed reading research regularly in The TES. Starting from a personal view that everyone had a right to be able to read, and that the purpose of research was to identify the most effective ways of achieving this, I found myself dealing with writers who either ignored inconvenient evidence, or else considered that there was no need to provide evidence for their theories at all beyond facile (if entertaining) anecdotes. Question what one of these people said and you could rely on a vitriolic and abusive riposte from one of their supporters in the letters pages.

Times have not changed. The Clackmannanshire research into phonics, by far the largest and best-designed study ever to have taken place in early reading, has been subjected to unfounded attacks.

Ruth Miskin's work is based on brilliant headship in one of the most difficult areas of the country. It included innovative approaches to class management so that every child was involved, and training assistants to teach children in small groups. Her books ask questions that require children to think about their reading, and to begin to consider layers of meaning, in a way that is unique among reading schemes, and include very consistent guidance for parents.

Ruth Miskin's place on the national scene is soundly based on having walked the talk.

John Bald, Linton, Cambridge.

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