Richard Colvin, back ‘n blogging, critiques the new New York Times’ column on teaching by Susan Engel, a Williams psychology professor and teacher educator. The column is a nice idea, Colvin writes. But the first one promotes the idea that teachers don’t need to teach children to read.
The column is about a kid who can’t read. And rather than the teacher actually teaching the kid to read, she has the kid read to her dog. So that’s the solution. More dogs in classrooms!!!
The teaching problem the column address is what to do with a nice, sweet, amenable third grader who likes to draw but is a slow, reluctant reader who stumbles over new words. Naturally, then, he hates to read aloud. The set up to the column says that the child had memorized words in kindergarten. “Most children,” the column continues, “catch on fairly easily after this, figuring out how to use the meaning of words and sentences as a guide to greater fluency.” This is the heart of the whole language philosophy — reading is natural and fun and when kids are exposed to lots of words they infer the “code” of how letters are connected to sounds and even if they don’t they can learn the meaning of words by guessing and predicting. Problem is, this is a terribly inefficient process. Why not help the kids along by letting them in on the secret of the phonetic properties of the letters and letting them know that, in most cases, the code will tell you what the word is?
By June, the boy is reading picture books fluently. So he’ll be entering fourth grade with early first-grade reading skills. The books will have more complex words and few pictures. What kind of dog will fix that?