I don’t teach readingby Marc Severson on Oct. 09, 2011, under Education
This is something I’ve learned in 32 years in education, I can’t teach a kid to read.
It’s not that I don’t try. I facilitate reading. I encourage reading. I model reading and I applaud reading. I hope for reading to appear but at the end of the day a child will read when they are ready to read. This truth was driven home to me by my own children.
My first daughter loved books. We were good parents, we read to her regularly and our home was full of books. But as early childhood educators, my wife and I wanted her to go to a developmentally appropriate kindergarten that did not focus on academics. We had decided to enroll our children in the new magnet program school, Borton Elementary. The principal, MaryAnn McCorkle was accessible and available to discuss the wishes of two educational professionals. Our first choice was the class of our friend, Bob Wortman. We liked the idea of our daughter having a male kindergarten teacher. Unfortunately for us everyone wanted Bob at that time. Fortunately for us there was another great developmentally based classroom right next to Bob’s room. Our daughter would be in Kay Stritzel’s kindergarten.
Then disaster struck. My first daughter taught herself to read when she was only four and a half.
I was aghast, what would Kay think? What would Bob say? I apologized to Kay at the Open House and assured her I did not try to teach her to read, she just did it on her own. Kay laughed it off and said not to worry, I had never really been in control of this. My wife and I were professional educators and yet this concern about our own children overcame our professional judgement. I wondered what I had done wrong.
When my second daughter got to Kay’s room she was nowhere near as interested in reading as her older sister had been. While she loved books, her sister could read to her anytime she liked. She liked Kay’s room because it had a refrigerator. Ah, a girl after my own heart. But the fact that she was not reading as her sister had was now worrisome. I was concerned that this might be indicative of an inability on her part — just the opposite of how I felt with the first one. Again Kay came to my rescue and assured me, “She’s going to read, don’t worry, sometime next year it will click.” And sure enough it did. It was remarkable that two people who spent their professional lives as educators could not recognize the inherent difference in these two children. There was nothing wrong. Eventually I came to realize that while we could encourage reading, we could model reading, we could demonstrate reading; we couldn’t cause or stop reading; our children would read when they were ready.
Then came the epiphany albeit a gradual one. Over the years I have to come to the realization that learning reading is a mysterious skill akin to staring at one of those hidden pictures until something you hadn’t noticed becomes apparent. You have to train your eyes and your brain. As an archaeologist I became a reader of dirt. I could tell by color change or shifts in texture that there was something there, like solving a cipher. When I was on survey, once I saw the first artifact, the other ones suddenly jumped out at me, even though they had been laying there all the time.
Reading is magic. Take for example the current teaser going around where letters are switched around: fI uyo anc dera tsih, thn cn yu rd ths? Research says it makes little difference to proficient readers what order letters are put in as long as they are there or if vowels are missing, they will automatically be provided. Presto!
Wn yu R wredee to rede, U wreede.
Now speling — that’s hard!