Unpacking the early literacy debate and building a foundation in PreK (with Jane Gebers)

The literacy space has become increasingly polarizing since the reading wars began.

There are a number of debates and questions that continue, including:
Will kids learn to read “naturally”? 

What did the whole language approach get right, if anything?

Is explicit phonics instruction just a pendulum swing (and is focusing on phonics enough)?
Are we teaching kids to read too early? 

When we talk about “early literacy” instruction, what are we actually recommending and how does that look? 

I invited Jane Gebers, veteran speech-language pathologist and author to episode 157 De Facto Leaders to discuss these questions. 

I entered the field right around the time the National Reading Panel study was published, so there was a fair amount of research on evidence-based literacy intervention when I started practicing. 

But when Jane started practicing, much of this research hadn’t been done, and she had the experience of watching the fields of education and reading instruction evolve. She was also one of the early adopters of many approaches that are common practice today, and it was an honor to hear about her work. 

Jane L. Gebers is the author of the popular resource, Books Are for Talking, Too! (Link here: https://www.slpstorytellers.com/2023/09/11/slp-author-book-books-are-for-talking-too-by-jane-gebers/), first published in 1990, and now in its 4th edition as of March 2023. A practicing speech-language pathologist for over 40 years, she has worked in public school, hospital, private, and clinical settings. She has been an adjunct professor at St. Mary's College of California and other universities where she taught Language Development, Assessment, and Intervention courses to students pursuing special education credentials. She currently holds a private practice in Northern California.

In this conversation, Jane and I discuss:

✅Everyone’s talking about “scaffolding”, but what does this word actually mean?

✅Reading practices that have stood the test of time, despite attempts to disprove their effectiveness.

✅The battle between play-based learning and “sight words”; and how to emphasize the right skills at the right time.

✅When building language skills, do we focus on a developmental hierarchy or environmental demands? 

✅Mapping language to print symbols and what to address in the early years to set the stage for reading and writing. 

You can connect with Jane on her website here: https://soundingyourbest.com, and find her book, Books Are for Talking, Too! here: https://www.slpstorytellers.com/2023/09/11/slp-author-book-books-are-for-talking-too-by-jane-gebers/  

The following resources were mentioned in this episode:

Some of the work done by Dr. Carol Westby, Ph.D. (Link here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/152574019902100107)

The Neuroscience of Reading with Dr. G. Reid. Lyon (Link here: https://irrc.education.uiowa.edu/blog/2023/05/neuroscience-reading-dr-g-reid-lyon)

Teachers’ Use of Scaffolds within Conversations During Shared Book Reading (Dekshmukh, R.S., Pentimonti, J.M., Zucker, T.A., & Curry, B.) (Link here: https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2021_LSHSS-21-00020)

In this episode, I mention Language Therapy Advance Foundations, my program that helps SLPs create a system for language therapy. You can learn more about Language Therapy Advance Foundations here:  https://drkarenspeech.com/languagetherapy/

I also mentioned The School of Clinical Leadership, my program that helps related service providers guide their teams to support students’ executive functioning across the day. This program will help you plan direct therapy, but will also help you lead change management on your team, no matter your job title. You can learn more about the School of Clinical Leadership here: https://drkarendudekbrannan.com/clinicalleadership

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Unpacking the early literacy debate and building a foundation in PreK (with Jane Gebers)