Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Johnny Can't Read

                     Why  can’t Johnny read?  He had not been taught to read.  He had been taught to look at words and say what the word says.  He had been taught to recognize forms and shapes in the same way that you call an elephant, elephant and a dog, a dog by simply recognizing how it looks.  Unless someone identifies that word to you, you have no way of decoding what those letters say.  

        It is a word guessing game.  To add to this methodology, one is taught to match the picture with the words on the page as a strategy.  So, a child reads, “Mother buys a ……”  

        Teacher says, "Look at the picture, what is Mother holding?"

        Child says, ”Bread."

        Teacher says, "Yes.  Mother buys a loaf of bread."

        To promote this style of word recognition, books or readers specially made for this purpose are presented to the child with a select number of words repeated in awkward sentences to facilitate word recognition through repeated encounters with the words.  So the child can read a number of words in the first grade, another two hundred added to that in the second grade and so on.

        Let me share a secret with you.  Each publisher makes up its own category of words of first, second, third, etc grade. It is possible that a child who can read at third grade level in Florida using their adopted text can barely read first grade books in Illinois with Scott Foresman’s selections.

        Furthermore, the child has been memorizing what each word stands and saving a memory slot for that word in the brain.  Our short-term memory can only retain so much.  After a while some things previously learned will be kicked off.  Reading in this manner obviously has produced non-readers in so many generations. There are high schoolers who are still struggling with reading  at a time when reading is the mainstay at school. Failure to read leads to failure in understanding content areas and failing in school.

        Let me present to you how reading can be taught in a systematic way which guarantees mastery of the reading process after 72 lessons.  Rudolph Flesch wrote a book, Why Johnny Can’t Read and what you can do about it.

         Here are some important points in the method:

1.         Reading is decoding what the letters say, blending them together to sound something familiar and finally recognizing what one has just said to be a word one has known in daily conversations.       M-a-n blended together says “man.” The word card saying man can be matched to the picture card of a man.

2.           Reading instruction begins with preparatory activities prior to formal reading instruction.  Matching and sorting according to color, size and shape develop hand-eye coordination and visual discrimination. Working with puzzles develop or expand vocabulary.  Activities with art, washing activities and building activities develop manual dexterity necessary for writing.  Games on sequencing pictures, (what happened first,  what next, what happens next),  prepares one for comprehension. 

               Even  before a child can read independently, one can follow a story,  answer questions about the story and  even suggest possible answers to critical thinking questions. Singing, reciting poems sharpens articulation. Being read to leads to love of reading and therefore invites them to learn how to read.

3.            Developing  phonemic awareness comes next.  
These are activities encouraging the play of sounds that make up our words.  At this level, we do not use letters.  We simply listen and participate verbally or with a motor response without using letters.  Some of these activities include --
            Counting the number of syllables,
            Adding a sound at the beginning of a word
            Adding a sound at the end of a word
            Substituting a vowel in the middle of a word
4.           Phonics--- there are 44 sounds of the English language.  Since we only have 26 letters of the alphabet, we combine two letters together to make a new sound.  So if we know the letter sound or letter- combination sound and blend all the sounds of the letter-symbols from left to right, we can read any word. 

5.            The systematic method is arranged into five big steps and these organized into 72 lessons.  There are 40 weeks in a school year.  Let’s suppose a child can only learn one lesson a week, 72 lessons can be accommodated in two years.  After two years, a child can read anything.

        Would you like your child to be guessing what this word says all through his/her life or would you give him/her the key so one can decipher what each word says independently?  What are you waiting for?  Get hold of this book, read the argument for teaching the phonics method and follow the systematic lessons laid out.  After 72 lessons, your child can read anything and would like to read.

Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do about It