Towards Better Reading

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I was once told, "You chase yourself in circles, searching for answers that are not to be found within, for if they were, you would have found them by now. Look elsewhere!"

I often think of that advice in relation to the ever-worsening problems of public schooling. If the answers were there…there in any one of the 51 Departments of Education, or in any one of the thousands of schools being directed, manipulated, and warped by federal directives — the educational gurus would have found them long ago. Instead, educators rush about, grabbing for brass rings; fishing for fads; pushing for progress…all the while refusing to honestly seek answers…elsewhere.

If school officials were wise…they would turn back to the Elsewheres of Yesteryears; to those effective, cost-efficient, one-room schools where so much was taught; so very much was learned. The successful methods used in those schools educated the people of America to literacy levels that are impossible to fathom in today’s America, let alone to achieve. The Answers are in those methods which were easily used by teachers just out of high school, themselves.

Parents often ask how they can help their children be successful in public schools. Such questions present a problem because — I believe it highly unlikely that their children, even with parental help, will beat the odds to successfully gain a real education; to develop into real scholars; in the public schools of today. I advise parents to remove their children from school systems that seek to remake society by pressuring the younger generations to accept values that conflict with and contradict home and church; schools that fail so miserably at teaching basic literacy, general knowledge, and mathematical skills.

However, if parents simply cannot remove their children from such schools, either to home school or to enroll them in effective private or parochial schools, there are some strategies that will aid and improve their reading skills, and ultimately their ability to learn:

  • Read aloud to children, and keep reading aloud as long as you can hold them within earshot. Choose books that challenge your children’s listening and language processing skills at every age, increasing the challenge with each successive book. For the babies and toddlers, read "a couple good books" before naptime, and again before bedtime. Yes, do read to babies for they need to repeatedly hear the lift, the lilt, the rhythms of the human voice as their brains prepare for a lifetime of language usage. Read long chapter books, especially classics, at the soonest opportunity, and read aloud through all of the ages and stages, right up until a child leaves home. Read aloud at the supper table so all the family can listen and gain. Read aloud in doctor and dentist offices while waiting for appointments. Read aloud during car trips, even if one must take Rx and frequently look up from the book in order to hold motion sickness at bay. By the time my son was four (4), I had read aloud the entire Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, then we began taking vacations to visit her different homes, reading other books along the way. If you are not sure of which books to read to your children, take time to explore Jim Trelease’s book, The Read-Aloud Handbook.
  • Model and expect clear speech pronunciation and accurate grammar usage in your home. Correct speech and grammatical errors, always and quickly! Help children learn to listen carefully; to detect discreet differences between sounds; between words; between sentences, opinions, comparisons, explanations, stories, information, philosophies. The more finely tuned that children’s hearing becomes, the more language and vocabulary words they will hear, learn, retain, recall, read, spell, write, reflect upon, internalize, then use for deeper thought; weightier ideas.
  • Insist that children learn, then keep using, accurate, neat, and very legible cursive handwriting. Think about it. When we speak, the sounds of a word flow, from one phoneme to the next, with smoothness, grace, and connections! Sounds flow together to make words; words flow together to make sentences; sentences to make paragraphs. Words flow together to create thoughts and ideas. Help children become aware of, and mimic, the flow of speech and language; make sure that children use that flow in their handwriting, thereby setting the stage for smooth scrolling of the mind when they read, spell, write, Think. We do not speak in Print! S-T-AR-T; S-T-O-P; S-T-AR-T; S-T-O-P! We speak in cursive!!!
  • Purchase a small set of the phonogram flashcards from Spalding International, then teach-practice-quiz your children until they can respond by immediately saying the sound(s) that each phonogram represents. They should practice until they respond with automaticity. Example: When the child sees the phonogram "ch" the response should instantly be, "/ch/, /k/, /sh/. Teach the phonograms for both reading and spelling skills. Hide the card and tell the child to, "Write the phonogram that can represent these three sounds: /ch/, /k/, /sh/, " and then expect the child to automatically write, "ch". The cards are numbered on the back. Teach them in that order. For additional information and instructions, read "Readingu2014Rx for Success," "Teaching and Learning With Phonics", "Spelling: A Lost Art" and "Spelling: The Alphabetic Code". Often a child’s reading level will rapidly improve, as much as two (2) grade levels, as soon as the phonograms are learned to automaticity and the skills carefully practiced in reading and spelling.

Strategies such as these are my keys for success in Rapid Reading Remediation. Parents have no need to contract with me for appointments and payment plans that continue almost until bankruptcy. If younger children are simply "Teaching Disabled" then repairs are rapidly made. I normally plan 6—7 appointments for 2nd and 3rd grade girls, but have had some of them reading and ready to go it alone, after only four or five sessions with me.

Boys take longer, usually 9—12 appointments, but normally this is because boys are so — Normal! Boys are hungry for the reasons that drive the rules and sounds. I often say, “Here is another Tool for your Reading Toolbox.” Most boys listen carefully then rapidly learn to use the new piece of information.” Boys want to know how reading-language-English work, which is perfectly understandable when we remember that boys disassemble their toys in order to discover how things work. One long ago Christmas comes to mind. My deaf brother, who was an especially curious young fellow, took two fingers and poked in the eyes of my new doll, giving her a forever-vacant expression. I was devastated, of course, but he simply wanted to see what made those eyes — in a non-living thing, no less! — open and close. Teachers, who respect and admire boys, will have the most satisfying of all teaching experiences.

The older the student, the more difficult it is to remediate reading skills. Children who have been allowed to remain non-readers, and children with disabilities, need more specialized remediation in addition to even stronger support systems.

Every day spent without reading skills leaves a language and knowledge gap that a child will neither completely fill nor adequately circumvent. Every unread story; every unread book; is a loss of vocabulary, concepts, learning experiences. Each loss becomes an Obstacle to Knowing, which further destroys a child’s chances to catch up and become whole.

Quickly seek skilled reading remediation for your children as soon as you sense problems. Do not depend on the teachers to alert you since far too many of them have no idea how to actually teach children to read; how to recognize problems-in-the-making. A child’s teacher may lack the skills to make a judgement call, or…may be unwilling to admit that there is little-to-no reading instruction being done in the classroom. The best thing that parents can do is to — learn how to teach reading then teach their own children to read!

When I dismiss the children from my instruction, the parents must take over, supporting and using the strategies; helping the children make up for lost reading time; lost learning experiences. Five appointments do not create a reader. Reading instruction provides the tools, only. My mother has always maintained that "The children who are read to become the readers, while the children who are not read to become the nonreaders." She is right, for unread-to children, at least those who are lucky enough to be taught how to read, all too often fail to develop an interest in reading for pleasure, which brings us back around to the importance of reading aloud.

It is easy to learn how to teach reading, so after parents have successfully made their home debut and taught their own children to read, it would be wonderful if those parents would proceed to teach their children’s friends to read. Then, it would be grand if those parents would teach other parents how to teach yet other children to read. If we all would take time to teach someone else to read, we could solve so many reading problems…solve them even as the public schools chase themselves in circles of fits and fads; even as the public schools refuse to look…Elsewhere.

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a reading specialist (continually seeking ways to improve her methods for Rapid Reading Remediation); a former public school teacher (The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered…); and a former homeschooling parent (whose son, now 20, insisted upon growing up, putting an end to all the fun). Linda now teaches English composition at a state university and is writing her first book.

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