Over the last decade, much has been learned about how children acquire the ability to identify words. Nevertheless, substantial disagreement remains as to the form that beginning reading instruction should take. Part of the difficulty results from the indefensible position that beginning reading programs must emphasize either meaning or skills.

The position taken in this paper is that beginning reading instruction must be meaning-based, involve students in frequent reading of informative and entertaining texts, and provide clear, explicit instruction of important word-identification strategies and skills. In an effective program of reading instruction, there must be an appropriate balance between teaching skills and strategies and reading and responding to a wide range of texts. After a comprehensive review of the research on beginning reading instruction, Adams (1990) concluded that whenever that "balance" is lost -- when reading instruction becomes so skills-oriented that meaning and the joy of reading are lost, or when literature is emphasized to the point that important skills and strategies are not taught -- students are likely to encounter difficulty in learning to read.

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