Revisiting Pink Vanilla

Valuing the Past as We Look to the Future


  • Diane Barone,

  • Maria Mallette

Reader's Digest carried the anecdote of a little girl whose astute diplomacy silenced her still smaller bawling brother. He insisted on a vanilla ice cream cone while the vendor had only chocolate and strawberry in stock. So she ordered a strawberry cone, handed it to her brother, and announced with desired results, “There you are, pink vanilla.” (Kline, 1973, p. 4)

Lloyd Kline's 1973 editorial about pink vanilla is still as current today as when he wrote about meeting the needs of The Reading Teacher readers. He noted that editing a journal like The Reading Teacher required diplomacy, as some readers valued articles, others considered the features the only important resource, and still others thought the advertisements were the best. Kline assured readers, “If you do not find the purest flavor of your heart's desire in this issue of RT, you definitely are being offered a very good blend of pink vanilla” (p. 4). We value Kline's wisdom as we present our first RT issue to you, our valued readers.

Even before we were named as the new editors of The Reading Teacher, we closely read its previous issues. We knew that to meet the needs of today's readers, we had to value the journal's traditions as we moved to the future. Within our first editorial, we share a retrospective of what past editors have included in the journal before we acquired this position. We then move to new trends that you will see in RT during our editorship.


Valuing the Past

We know that we launch our editorship of RT strongly positioned because of its rich legacy to literacy instruction and learning accomplished through the diligence of previous editors. Although we could report on the unique efforts of each past editor or team of editors, we instead focus on the content that was shared during their leadership. Table 1 showcases the many, talented editors of RT over its history.

Table 1. Past Editors of The Reading Teacher
1948–1949Ralph C. Staiger
1949–1951Marjorie Seddon Johnson
1951–1955Nancy Larrick
1955–1958J. Allen Figurel
1958–1967Russell G. Stauffer
1967–1971Roy A. Kress and Marjorie Seddon Johnson
1971–1975Lloyd W.Kline
1975–1989Janet Ramage Binkley
1989–1993James F. Baumann (Associate Editors: Deborah R. Dillon, Carol J. Hopkins, Jack W, Humphrey, David G. O'Brien, and Beverly E. Cox)
1993–1999Nancy Padak and Timothy Rasinski (Associate Editors: Brenda Church, Gay Fawcett, Judith Hendershot, Justina Henry, Jacqueline Peck, Elizabeth Pryor, Kathy Roskos, B. Joy Gunnett, and Barbara Moss)
1999–2003Priscilla L. Griffith and Carol Lynch-Brown
2003–2007Judith Mitchell and D. Ray Reutzel
2007–2011Robert B. Cooter Jr. and J. Helen Perkins


Ralph Staiger edited the earliest version of RT, when it was called the Bulletin and was a 16-page, mimeographed newsletter (Remember the purple ink?; Staiger et al, 1992). One of the first articles to appear in the Bulletin targeted differentiated instruction, sharing activities for students to complete while the teacher worked with small groups. Although this piece appeared in 1948, its content still resonates with teachers.

Under Nancy Tarrick's editorship, the Bulletin changed its name to The Reading Teacher. She wrote, “The whole bulletin is focused on the needs and interests of the classroom teacher of reading at all grade levels. To stress this editorial slant the Executive Board of the organization authorized the new name of The Reading Teacher” (Larrick, 1951, p. 18). Further, she organized her yearly issues around controversial areas with divergent voices responding. The controversial areas included grouping, the experience approach of teaching reading compared with basic readers, phonics, remedial and developmental reading, and finally, reading tests.


As we considered the topics of articles within the very first issues of The Reading Teacher, we wondered what trends we might discover by revisiting all of the previous issues. We were surprised at the consistency of some topics across time, such as grouping, while other topics appeared more sporadically, such as portfolios. We share some of these topics in brief overviews.

Methods of Teaching Reading

How best to teach reading has been a constant concern for all reading teach. Early on, readers learned about the initial teaching alphabet and individu reading versus the use of a basal program (Hayes, 1966; Spencer, 1966). Other approaches that were explored over time include the language expe approach, the use of computers, adaptive reading instruction, linguistics, and bilingual programs. The National Reading Panel report also resulted in how best to teach young children how to read, with the focus more on the elements of reading rather than a specific program (Shanahan, 2003).


Articles centered on phonics and how to best teach these skills first appeared in 1950, with an article by Nila Smith asking, “When shall we teach phonics?” The issues in the second half of the 1950s contained several articles about phonics, perhaps in response to Flesch's 1955 book Why Johnny Can't Readand What You Can Do About It. Articles focused on phonics are still current, with more emphasis on the explicit teaching of phonics and how it ties to fluency (e.g., Rasinski, Rupley & Nichols, 2008).



The earliest mention of comprehension occurred in 1948 when Johnson discussed informal ways to measure it. An interesting title, “Reading With Understanding,” was proffered by Hildreth in 1951. Throughout the history of RT, articles and columns have focused on comprehension. Current work has centered on a variety of comprehension strategies, such as the comprehension matrix (Gill, 2008) and literature discussions (Glitter, 2011).



Vocabulary instruction is also a topic that has stood the test of time and been popular throughout the years. One of the first articles was written by Durrell (1954) and targeted vocabulary control within readers, a topic explored by many others. More recent articles have targeted vocabulary for English learners (Manyak & Bauer, 2009), pre-K children (Neuman & Dwyer, 2009), and vocabulary assessment (Stahl & Bravo, 2010).

Computers and Technology

We were surprised to discover that the first article to target computers was written in 1972. (The first personal Apple computer was released in 1976.) This article (Atkinson & Fletcher, 1972) shared how to support students with computer-assisted instruction and used timesharing technology. From this beginning, writers are now informing teachers about how to use the Internet, digital messages, podcasts, digital readers, and so forth in their classrooms. Other technology articles focused on television. Since 1951, RT authors have been concerned with how television affects reading in both positive and negative ways (e.g., Witty, 1951).


So many of us believe that the influence of testing is rather current to education. Our review showed us that this is not the case. Articles on assessment appeared in 1949 with a question about how well students read (Williams, 1949). In 1953, Jones wrote about testing versus teaching. More recently, Hornof (2008) wrote about reading tests as a new genre that students should learn about. Similarly, issues about testing and bilingual students appeared for the first time in 1969 (Arnold, 1969), much earlier than most readers assumed.

Disadvantaged and Urban Children

The issue of children from high-poverty backgrounds has been consistently targeted within the pages of RT. In the 1960s, articles focused on black children (Ecroyd, 1968), successful disadvantaged children (Froelich, Blitzer, & Greenberg, 1967), and characteristics of these children (Black, 1965). Recent issues featured making urban schools better places for children (Payne, Teale, & Scott, 2010) and supporting diverse struggling readers (Walker-Dalhouse & Risko, 2010). Although the titles have changed, the focus has remained on children who are at higher risk for school success.

Considering the topics that previous editors have included in issues of the journal, it is obvious that The Reading Teacher has been shepherded by leaders in the reading field. Each editor or editorial team has brought nuanced changes to the journal and maintained a continued focus on the classroom and instruction. Interestingly, many topics have stayed similar over time and are still relevant today.

‘Each editor or editorial team has brought nuanced changes to the journal and maintained a continued focus on the classroom and instruction.”

Previous editors have established a legacy that has been critical to the journal's success and the respect that it has garnered over time. We begin our editorship thankful for this careful stewardship and very aware of the journal's traditions and current expectations.

Vision of the Future

When we applied to be the new editors of The Reading Teacher, the application included the following statement: “IRA, like other professional associations, is currently at a critical juncture, facing major demographic change among its membership and transitioning to increased use of media in fostering professional development, communication, and collaboration.” We carefully contemplated the implications of this statement from the International Reading Association as we constructed our vision for The Reading Teacher, a vision we see as simultaneously honoring the rich tradition of the past while envisioning the possibilities of the future.

We begin with the idea that The Reading Teacher is the premier resource used by practitioners in the field of literacy. We see the greatest strength of the journal as serving the important function of providing practitioners with research- and evidence-based practices. However, we also see the journal losing its identity as a practitioner journal. That is, it seems that many published articles are research studies.

With Reading Research Quarterly as the premier research journal, we believe that The Reading Teacher should focus more on the application of research than original research. Thus, in an effort to reclaim the identity of The Reading Teacher, we are seeking manuscripts that are “well-written, original descriptions of research-based instruction that improves literacy learning of children through age 12. Manuscripts must provide an appropriate blend of practical classroom application and solid theoretical framework” (International Reading Association, 2011, para. 4).

One way in which RT authors have successfully achieved this blend between theory, research, and practice is by writing a practitioner-oriented article based on previously published research (e.g., see Buly & Valencia, 2002; Valencia & Buly, 2004). However, for authors interested in publishing their research in The Reading Teacher, we encourage them to depart from the traditional research report genre. A well-written research report, which balances all critical components of the study, leaves only a small space for focusing on what is central to the readership of RT the practical implications of the work. Therefore, our new forum for publishing articles based on research studies includes a brief summary of the research methods in the articles along with a link to an online research supplement containing a detailed description of the methods used (e.g., see Mills & Levido, this issue). We feel that this new format accentuates the importance of evidence- and research-based practices while also providing ample space for in-depth and meaningful discussions of practical classroom applications.

Although we agree with the sentiment that you cannot judge a book by its cover, we hope that the new look of The Reading Teacher captures the current, relevant, and contemporary content that characterizes the journal. Beyond the new cover design, we changed the internal layout by integrating articles and departments. We believe this change gives the journal a balanced look and places equal value on all of the content. These aesthetic changes to make the journal more visually appealing are not intended to serve as a judge of the content's quality; rather, the intent is to attract readers to the journal, whereby the content determines the true standard of the journal's quality.

Thus, in considering how to maintain high standards of quality in content and best meet the needs of the broad and diverse readership of The Reading Teacher, which indeed is the most vital aspect of our vision, we are committed to publishing relevant, forward-thinking, insightful, and evidence-based articles, teaching tips, department columns, and invited commentaries.

“We are committed to publishing relevant, forward-thinking, insightful, and evidence-based articles, teaching tips, department columns, and invited commentaries.”

In striving to focus on what we believe represents “the most critical issues that need to be brought before the journal's readership in the next two to five years,” according to the editorship application, we decided on six departments and invited dynamic, highly regarded, and insightful scholars to serve as section/department editors. We are thrilled and honored to have them join our team.

  • In this issue are Frank Serafini for the section “Integrating Children's Literature” and Katherine Stahl for “Research Into Practice.”
  • The October issue will feature James Cummins for “Literacy and Language Learners” and Kathleen Roskos and Susan Neuman for “From the Start: The Effective Reading Teacher.”
  • The November issue will feature Karen Wixson and Marjorie Lipson for “Perspectives on RTF and Norman Stahl for “From Policy to Politics.”

To complement these departments and further address critical issues for the RT readership, we are delighted to offer “The Inside Track,” a thematic series of commentaries in which esteemed lit eracy scholars have been invited to write on topics of their expertise within the framework “What is most impor tant to know about .” Each issue of this volume year will feature one commentary, beginning with this issue's “10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research” by Nell Duke and Nicole Martin.


As we think ahead to the next volume year, the commentaries will be based on the voices of the readership and reflect influential publications in the field. Thus, if you have not yet responded, we invite you to share your thoughts on the most significant articles or books you have read that you feel have influenced your teaching practice. Please let us know your ideas by sending your list of influential publications to us at

In closing, we wish to express our gratitude to all of the editors who preceded us in building and maintaining the rich quality of content, and our appreciation for the opportunity to serve as the new editors of The Reading Teacher. We hope that you find just the right mix of articles, teaching tips, columns, and commentaries to motivate you in your important work with stu. Some will resonate as your favorite flavor, whereas others may be pink vanilla.