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[Susan notes:

This letter cuts to the heart of the matter: adults reading aloud to children--instead of putting them on the spot to produce words themselves.]

Submitted to Philadelphia Inquirer but not published

To the editor

To the Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

While we're "Rewiring the brain for better reading

skills" (News, June 25) we should be aware of the

fact that in 1840 we and Scotland were the two

most literate nations on earth. Many "one-room"

schoolhouses had 250-or-so kids headed up by

just one teacher and two assistants who helped

the older help the younger teach themselves

the basic skills.

In 1950, a survey of 10,000 British adults disclosed

not one single case of "word blindness;" i.e. dyslexia.

At the same time, virtually every child in both Great

Britain and Japan taught themselves to read before

they even entered school. Many, or most, in America

did so as well.

But then, in the late 1950s, television and Sesame

Street arrived; 80 percent of the parents promptly

gave up reading to their kids and have themselves

read many less books, magazines, and newspapers

ever since; i.e. they're setting a very bad example.

The schools then took over; now just one-third

of high-school seniors are competent readers.

Dyselxia is sweeping the land. Brain-science is

thought to be the answer.

The solution: -- read aloud to kids from age two

onwards. Let them watch what we're doing and

then HELP them say the words with us or right

after us. But NEVER use flash cards or put them

on the spot to read a word or a sentence out

loud alone.

Read aloud to every class every day using

INTERESTING material -- like the sports pages.

Set up groups of four reading in unison from

4th grade on, which is when the brain is clearly

ready to roll inside an academic institution.

STOP putting 'em on the spot to produce.

That's scary, and inhibiting, and humiliating

and, like homework, makes kids hate books,

learning, reading, schools, and teachers.

Or, the simplest solution of all: -- Have

the government declare reading, writing,

arithmetic, and learning as ILLEGAL before

age 14, because then we couldn't stop those

rebellious and need-to-learn critters from

teachin' 'emselves how!

Robert E. Kay, M. D.

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