Unfair comments deserve red card;Correction;Letter

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Carol Fox is fully entitled to her views about my book The Literacy File (TES July 4, 1997), but not to support them with inaccurate statements about its contents.

She quotes me as making two vague statements about research: "It has been found that..." and "Research has shown that...", which are not in the book at all. She also says that I claimed the book to be closely related to the national literacy project, which it did not. This suggestion implies that I was holding myself out as having a connection to which I was not entitled, and has caused me considerable professional damage.

I am next said to have "rubbished" research, included no bibliography and tried to conceal opposing views. In fact, most references to research in the book are positive, there are footnotes enabling readers to follow up the work of every writer cited, and there is a bibliography designed to meet the needs of the book's intended readership. This comprises headteachers, teachers, students, parents and governors.

The first two groups are no less professional than academics, and the bibliography is located in the main body of the text, where most people are more likely to read it. Those who need more are referred to the 32-page bibliography in Marilyn Jager Adams' Beginning to Read (MIT Press).

I have, on the other hand, seriously questioned the way a number of senior researchers have interpreted their own evidence.

I have argued that "guessing game" theories do not provide an accurate picture of skilled reading, that Shirley Brice Heath underestimates the educational damage caused by leaving children to their own devices, and that Professor Gordon Wells was wrong when he chose to disregard differences at the top and bottom of his sample to focus on the middle. This is open argument, not "willful misrepresentation", a phrase which implies that I deliberately told lies about the work. This allegation is a serious professional foul, and deserves a red card.

The Literacy File is not beyond reproach, and I welcome points which will help me improve the next edition. All I ask is that comments on it should be fair and accurate. Most of those made in this review were not.

John Bald, 7 Symonds Lane, Linton, Cambridge

* Editor: We apologise to John Bald for the inaccuracies in our review of The Literacy File and for the delay in setting the record straight.

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