Dr. Marion Blank wins the Upton Sinclair Award

Upton Sinclair exposed conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry in his novel, The Jungle

Educational reform in the U.S. needs an army of heroes – which is the spirit behind the Upton Sinclair Award, named after the Pulitzer Prize winning author who worked tirelessly to promote social justice and was most famous for his novel The Jungle. The award is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to education while displaying great courage in the process.

This year, our own Dr. Marion Blank, the inventor of the Reading Kingdom, received the award for her work on finding a solution to the problem of reading failure in America. Other winners of the Upton Sinclair award include numerous important figures in education such as Geoffrey Canada, E.D. Hirsch, Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol.

There was a time when being hooked on phonics was considered a good thing, even though if you’ve ever taught a child to read you know that simply “sounding out” words does not work (e.g. if “phonics” worked it would be spelled “foniks”). Despite the well-known shortcomings of standard phonics education, the system has yet to be replaced as the dominant method of reading instruction in the United States, which has a 40% rate of reading failure and is ranked 25th in reading achievement far below Germany, Japan, China and other countries.

Dr. Blank has devoted her life to helping children learn to read and in the course of her work discovered that six skills are required to learn how to read and write (not just the single skill of knowing letter sounds – which is the basis of phonics). The Reading Kingdom is based on her groundbreaking teaching methods and as a result the online reading program works. It’s also the only program that customizes itself to each child and requires minimal adult supervision. This means that the program is effective for anyone with a web-enabled computer and not just children with attentive parents and good teachers.

Congratulations, Marion!

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