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 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
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.