How Did You Learn to Read?

How Did You Learn to Read?

Having no children in school (or anywhere else), I've had no dog in the fight over techniques for teaching literacy for a long time. Every now and then, though, I stumble on a debate over phonics, whole language, sub-lexical reading, holism, or graphophonemics that makes me wonder what in the world everyone is talking about.

I don't remember learning to read. I have no idea how I was taught, except that I think it must have included some attention to skillsets that now glare at each other over the barricade separating Phonics Land from Whole Languagea. I'm sure I can remember connecting letters to sounds, but I'm equally sure that no one drilled me in meaningless word-calling exercises before exposing me to stories, if only because I'd recall the physical violence that would have been required to keep me at the task. The earliest two things I can remember about learning to read are the shocking realization that it was possible to read silently to oneself -- who would have thought of such a thing! -- and the glow of pleased recognition when a neighbor explained that the ridiculous sequence of letters "i-n-g" meant the interesting sound I knew from words like "king" and "ring." Could it be that, back in the 1950s, I was being treated to what the New York Public School system calls its newly adopted system, "Balanced Literacy"?

When I turn to articles about literacy pedagogy, I begin to doubt my longstanding ability to read and comprehend:

*A reader uses three cuing systems:
  1. the graphic (printed visual array);
  2. the syntactic (conventions and consistencies of the language’s structure);
  3. and the semantic (meaning or comprehension, including background information and personal previous experiences). [graphic organizers, Language Experience Approach (L.E.A.) and Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DRTA), writing books and stories]

    I don't know what any of that looks like when a teacher or a kid does it. I think people just read stories to me that I was interested in, pointed out the words, and probably explained the sounds of the letters, and at some point it sank in. Maybe that's what they call Directed Reading-Thinking Activity plus embedded phonics these days. Perhaps my family was all holistic and trendy! Maybe they began every lesson by activating my "prior knowledge (schema) through discussion" and continued this throughout the lesson to help me make connections to other books as well as my own experiences. There may have been attention to explicit skill instruction and the use of authentic texts, including culturally diverse literature in various modalities.

    Or maybe the people who write about education have just become unusually insane in recent decades.

    How did you guys learn to read? What about your kids?

    No comments: