The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

My Experience Learning to Read

on January 4, 2021

Many years ago, as a public school teacher I got involved with a group of people who called themselves “scientists”. They believed they knew the best ways to teach children reading and please there parents. There teaching methods were to sound out letters so they could be recognized as words. They also tryed to persuade parents that learning to read was difficult, so it shoud be taught to children “scientifically”. But I found that trying to turn letter sounds into words was very difficult for me, and often didn’t work for anyone else. I certainly can’t call that “science”!

When I started my career as a teacher, everything I did was different from what the scientists chose to do. I began teaching children by reading aloud the stories in our new books, and told them to look and listen to words as I red them. I also continued to read stories my students enjoyed, and soon many of them were able to recognize their words. They also began to examine some of the new books I had brought in, because they looked interesting. And many of them took no time to start reading.

Eventually, most of my students learned to read well and were enjoying books. All they had to do was to remember the word pictures they had seen before, and figure out the meanings of new words. I also noticed that many of the children reading easily were also writing down words because they wanted to remember them. For almost all of them reading had become a skill they used and enjoyed.

Although many people today still think that learning to read is difficult, I have rarely seen problems in my classroom. By the end of their school year most students have found reading easy and desirable. And the few who were still learning, listened to me read easier stories and looked at what I read. In addition many of my students became able to write good short stories, even though their spelling was not always correct. For most children, reading is just recognizing written words they have seen before. And learning to read new words is not difficult when the ones you already know give you clues for new ones. Instead of making sounds to learn words, children shud remember the names of words they’ve already seen. But teachers and parents will still be needed when new words appear. Children may be able to sound them out, but they might also need to be told their meanings. So teachers and parents shod be ready to explain new words to their children, or instead just show them their pictures.


4 responses to “My Experience Learning to Read

  1. berniemon13 says:

    Loved your article. It makes a lot of sense to me.


  2. Jane Watson says:

    Thank you, Joanne, for your important comment, especially as rumors circulate about the rebirth of Reading First.


  3. Gary R Hargett says:

    I remember when the federal government started requiring the adoption of “scientifically based reading research” A lot of us scratched our heads wondering what that meant. As I reviewed the research, it became clear that the promoters we applying a narrow and cynical definition of “scientific.” I read a lot of studies that would compare two approaches for young struggling readers. Typically, it meant teaching some students discrete lower-level skills and not teaching them to other students. Lo and behold, after a period of time they would compare the students’ performance on those skills, and the ones who received the instruction would outscore those who had not. Or sometimes it was comparing two phonics approaches. These comparisons are what made it “scientific.” These studies were always done on disadvantaged students. I never saw a study in which those students approached grade level. Science should be generalizable and theory-based. I never saw a theoretical framework in those studies, and I never saw evidence that these “scientific” methods generalized to the larger student population.


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