Two New Quotes For You

From Sol Stern’s “A Solution for Gotham’s Reading Woes,” City Journal, Summer 2011:

Noting that SAT reading scores nose-dived in the 1960s and have remained flat ever since, Hirsch blames the nation’s education schools. “Our teachers and administrators are taught brilliant slogans like ‘rote regurgitation of mere facts’ which make factual knowledge sound objectionable,” Hirsch writes, “and they are told that a deeper, better approach is the ‘how-to’ scheme of education. Don’t give students a fish; teach them how to fish. Don’t tell them what to think, teach them critical thinking skills. Don’t teach them factoids, teach them comprehension strategies.” To the contrary, it is precisely the accumulation of facts—whether in history, science, the arts, or civics—that enables young readers to move from the foundational skill of decoding the written words of the English language (that is, phonics) to a deeper comprehension of complex texts.

From Alan Jacobs’ “We Can’t Teach Students to Love Reading,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 31, 2011:

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“See What’s Really There”

I’m helping teach one of my young children to read, and it’s interesting to see her make the same mistake that the older children made.  Just as many children naturally write letters backwards, they also seem inclined to read the first letter or two of a word, and then assume it’s a similar word they’re already familiar with, so they just say that word instead of reading the rest of what it actually is.  A child may see the word “became” and, after puzzling through the first two letters, find it close enough to “begin” or “belong” or whatever other word they’re comfortable with; they’ll then confidently pronounce that word and move on. 

When this happens, I repeat the patient mantra they’ve each come to expect: “Read the word that’s there, not the one you want to be there.” 

That’s not just good advice for phonics, it’s good advice for life. 

How often do we tend to skim through the superficial aspects of something and then pronounce ourselves experts, and act accordingly?  How often do we look for the few comfortable things in a complicated issue, and then link it to a familiar pattern, congratulating ourselves on another success?

Consider Head Start.  Continue reading