I carry my Reading u2018First Aid Kit’ with me wherever I go, and have already used it on this vacation. The word soon spreads and a knock is heard at the camper door; a little voice asks, "Would you have time to teach me to read better?" I make the time. When school is in session, children stop by my classroom to ask, "Will you be staying after school any night this week and I could get some extra lessons?" I make time for those, too. I find it interesting to note which children care enough, and are forthright enough, to ask. It tells me a lot about the character of these children and I would like to especially commend Rebecca, Calvin, Jason and Aaron.
My goals during these u2018first aid’ treatments are to help the child or adult:
- Understand that English is written in a Code
- Learn the 70 main phonograms (sound + write) and realize that they are the key, the Rosetta Stone, for breaking the Code for written English
- Develop the ability to hear English words sound-by-sound
- Practice spelling English words sound-by-sound
- Learn the six different types of syllables
- Develop automaticity when presented with real or nonsense words to decode
- Read aloud so the brain experiences Print-to-Sound-to Meaning sequences which prepares the brain to work from Print-to-Meaning, therefore bypassing any need for the language to be heard and thus allowing the reader to handle print silently, quickly and with ever-improving comprehension skills.
This must sound like a daunting task to those who have been brainwashed by professors who have never overcome their fear of phonics; who have never learned how to actually teach reading; who have never willingly admitted to the mass failures of the whole language/look-say erroneous u2018philosophies.’ (Using the word u2018methods’ would give undeserved credence to a blindness of purpose which has served to bring about unconscionable results — results which have gravely jeopardized the American ideals of life, liberty, and literacy; have destroyed the ability of increasing numbers of American citizens to understand and jealousy guard their rights, freedoms and heritage.
However, the task of teaching children to read is neither daunting nor difficult if parents and teachers will take the time to gain the necessary knowledge and skills — techniques which the teacher-training colleges refuse to discover and pass on to future teachers, despite the fact that students are paying expensive tuition for just such information and training.
Consider the fact that one-roomed schoolhouse teachers (lacking college degrees, modern teaching credentials, mandated curriculum and benchmarks) accepted ANY and ALL children — no matter how poorly clothed or underfed; no matter how literate or illiterate the parents — and taught the children to read, spell, write, cipher, think, learn. It is inexcusable that modern schools fail to accomplish these goals with today’s children.
Although I have a clinic and a classroom full of reading materials, when I travel, I carry those items with which I can make the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time. In my kit I have:
- A small set of The Spalding Reading Method phonogram flash cards.
- Individual letter tiles for the student to use as they spell short lists of nonsense words, thus practicing both phonemic awareness and spelling. For example: "Spell u2018bim’ — now u2018bam’ — now u2018tam’ — now u2018tamp’." Anyone can use Scrabble tiles and invent word lists that involve just one change for each successive word.
- A small notebook of progressively more intricate nonsense words for practice towards automaticity in decoding. (I made mine by cutting the decoding lists from Nanci Bell’s Seeing Stars workbooks.)
- A page of word pairs for practicing u2018E-controlled syllables:’ cut/cute mad/made cop/cope bit/bite pet/Pete Tim/time hop/hope
I also carry a page explaining the six types of syllables:
- Closed syllables: end with consonants and the vowel is usually short — bum tan hit cut sel-dom cir-cus
- Open syllables: end with a vowel and the vowel usually says its name (however, I and Y, can say short or long u2018I’) — my he ba-con mu-sic si-lent fa-mous re-peat
- R-controlled syllables: the u2018r’ changes a vowel and makes a new phonogram so remember this sentence, "Her first nurse works early." dollar doctor jour-ney
- E-controlled syllables: the u2018final silent e’ forces the vowel before it to say its name — bake time cute cope
- -le syllables: cas-tle bat-tle lit-tle (e is necessary as every English syllable must have a vowel)
- Vowel-Pair syllables: pain sea-son boil toy suit
In 1996, the Scientific American magazine published an article entitled, “10 Years of Brain Imaging Research Shows the Brain Reads Sound by Sound.” But still, in 2003, most teachers have never been told of that research, and continue to pass on students who do not spell, cannot read above the third-grade level, have poor writing skills, and worse rational thought patterns. The research clearly shows that the brain “recognizes groups of sounds as words” rather than recognizing words as whole units.
Effective readers read by decoding words! Readers read by sounding out words — and the more automatic that decoding process becomes, the better the student reads. When decoding is effortless and automatic, the brain can focus on comprehension of the text. “Without the ability to sound out words, the brain is stumped…Our brain becomes adept at processing and our experience is that of hearing words but actually our brain is processing sounds (phonemes) and putting them together so we hear words. When we read, the same process is in operation…Reading is not automatic but must be learned. The reader must develop a conscious awareness that the letters on the page represent the sounds of the spoken word.” (Scientific American, 1996) Insist that children be taught both the simple, and the advanced, Code — for use with automatic, accurate decoding skills and strategies.
There are some children who just seem to effortlessly learn to read. Unfortunately, these ‘success stories’ allow educators to inaccurately assess teaching philosophies and methods. Educators often accept the credit for children who learned to read ‘in spite of the teaching,’ yet blame someone, or something, for the children teachers fail to teach to read. Favorite culprits in the blame-game are: Learning Disabilities, dyslexia, broken homes, poverty, illiterate families, ADD, ADHD… The real villains in the illiteracy and dumbing down debacle of public education are the teacher training institutions. If the instructors at those colleges would ever u2018get it right’ then they could train teachers who would understand the reading process and begin their careers truly knowing how to teach reading.
If your child, your grandchild, your neighbor’s child, even your neighbor, cannot read well enough to meet potential, I would encourage you to become informed about the reading process and prepare to teach reading. Study the books: Speech to Print by Louisa Cook Moats, and The Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Spalding — Edited by Dr. Mary North. If possible, enroll in a two-week Spalding training class. Gather items for your own u2018First Aid Kit’ and begin teaching children and adults to read. You do not have to be a teacher — certified or otherwise! The more you practice, the more skills you will develop, and the more life-changing instruction you will give. Teach others how to teach reading and assist in creating an army of volunteer instructors who can reach across the country, teaching people how to read, to think, and to take back America. The schools are not doing it, so it is up to We the People. Pick up the u2018torch’ and pass it on!
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.