Reading "Disability": Interrogating paradigms in a prism of power

Year: 2006

Author: Graham, Linda, Grieshaber, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Increasingly the teaching of reading has become more defined, precise and subject to government regulation. As part of this process, it has become more regulatory, operating for the purpose of distinguishing between those who make satisfactory progress and those who require further attention. Children exhibiting questionable characteristics are marked as such relatively early in their school lives. This has the constitutive effect of associating difference with disability, and as the stakes are raised with funding being linked to outcomes and improvements in test scores, children who once may have been called ‘slow to warm up’, ‘late bloomers’, or those who may approach reading differently from the norm are being mapped onto a grid of disparity and ‘treated’ for their reading deficiencies. This paper suggests that as a result of recent government decisions in the UK, USA and Australia, there is an identifiably ‘proper’ way of learning to read. It interrogates this ‘proper’ paradigm of reading and locates it as an integral part of a prism of power in which young children are encased. As one part of the prism of power, the paradigm of reading operates in consort with two other dividing practices to ensure that reading dis/ability is identified. The ultimate goal is to remedy the situation, however in the process, children encounter multiple grids of specification that each threaten to find them different. The three parts of the prism work together to not only trap children, but to keep those who do not respond to the proper ways of learning to read within the confines of the prism and in a constant state of flux.