Saturday, July 28, 2012

A guest blog from Bob Rose in USA

Bob Rose has been my on-line friend for about 5 years now. He was born in 1938 0n Long Island, in a suburb of New York City.

He graduated from New York University in 1963 (when I was only 11 years old), and after two years as a navy medical officer in Guam, he became a board certified medical internist and practised solo medicine (mostly geriatrics) on eastern Long Island for 27 years.

In 1996 he retired and moved to Georgia (presently in the Appalachian town of Jasper) to be nearer to his first son and grand children.

Following is his article for your reading pleasure.

I commend Luqman for his belief that fluency in the acquisition of knowledge is a central idea of great importance when it comes to improving the education of youth in our schools.  Lord knows why professional education professors haven't already explored this concept; but that's their problem, not ours.

I've always been interested in improving education, and eventually came to the conclusion that lack of fluency in reading and maths is the reason why so many children in this world are failing to get "world class" educations.

The fact that I'm a retired physician with a special background in neurology and neuroanatomy, combined with my acquaintance with an expert in artificial intelligence and computer science, as well as the fact that our second son (now a successful intellectual) was considered "dyslexic" as a child all contributed to my ability to have the ideas I'm about to describe.

During the 2002-3 school year I went on-line and recruited a group of five "whole language" teachers to time how quickly it took their first-graders to write the alphabet, and found that practically all could read when they had practised enough to be able to write the alphabet at a minimum rate of 40 letters per minute.  I took these 100 students to be a "control" group.

The following school year (2003-4) I started my own listserv and recruited five kindergarten teachers willing to check this fact empirically. By February of 2004 the results were very obvious.  Virtually all of the kids who could handwrite the alphabet at 40 LPM were reading with good comprehension.

I immediately wrote up our findings and submitted the manuscript for publication.  But no journal would publish it, no doubt because our findings were so contrary to the popular wisdom.  I will email an MS Word file of this paper to anyone who requests it. My email address is

It has also been found that second-graders able to give more than 40 correct answers per minute on simple addition facts (like 6 + 8 = 14) virtually never have maths or science problems thereafter.

One of these days, John Dewey's idea that "kids should only learn what they want to learn" will become obsolete.  As Luqman believes, fluency at the basics is foundation of future world education reform.

I'll end with a word about "phonics".  I don't believe in "phonics", which assumes that kids must learn an alphabetic "code". Such a code doesn't exist for English spellings, and in spite of the wishes of many, spelling reform in English is not going to happen.

For example, what is the "sound" of "ch" in "Chicago" or "yacht"?

On the other hand, what I call "the alphabetic principal", or "phonetics" is imperative in the pursuit of literacy.

The question should not be "what phoneme does this grapheme represent?", but rather "What does it represent in  THIS PARTICULAR WORD".  Children can learn writing, spelling, "phonemic awareness" and reading with comprehension all simultaneously if they learn to write the words in their vocabularies while saying to themselves the appropriate sound of each grapheme written.


Bob Rose said...


Luqman is truly a man of genius. He says there's no such thing as "auditory processing disorder" because kids in Malaysia have no trouble learning to spell in Malay or in romanized Chinese, only when it comes to the confusing spelling of English words.

I can do even better. In Spanish speaking countries, kids become fluent at writing the letters, then simple syllables such as "ba, be, bi, bo,bu". Thereafter they can pass phonemic awareness tests, even with no formal instruction in it.

Also, "dyslexic" kids can learn to touch-type, even though they can't read what they've correctly written. This involves a "phonetic finger dance" on the keyboard, again proving the same thinsg!

Luqman Michel said...

Bob Said "I can do even better. In Spanish speaking countries, kids become fluent at writing the letters, then simple syllables such as "ba, be, bi, bo,bu". Thereafter they can pass phonemic awareness tests, even with no formal instruction in it."

When I teach dyslexic children Malay this is how I teach them but with a little modification.

I find that the way I teach rhymes and children catch on much easier. Let me explain. In Malay the alphabet 'e' has 2 phonemes (the only letter with more than one phoneme). I teach the phoneme 'e' as in the 'a' sound in the word 'bay'. As such the sound of 'be' in Malay is exactly the same sound in the English word "bay".

My vowels are arranged as a, i. u, e,o (Instead of aeiou. I start with: ba, bi, bu, be, bo and then down the line with ca,ci,cu,ce,co (In Malay the C carries the sound as in the English 'ch').

When a child has gone down the line to,say, ja,ji,ju,je,jo all I do is say the sound of the first letter in the next line of words and he will say the whole line of words with no prompting from me. After the alphabet 'j' is 'k' and when I say the sound of 'k' the child will go ka,ki,ku,ke,ko. From then on the rest of the alphabets is easy to teach and then we go to 3 letter words.
I will explain in more detail in my next few articles.
Meanwhile, I thank you Bob for your post and your kind words in your comments.

Bob Rose said...


I enjoyed reading about your way of teaching the sounds of Malay letters. I wish I knew more about Austonesian languages.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your kind words Bob. I am always looking for ways to make it easy for students to learn.
I speak Tamil and learning Malay using Tamil sounds is real easy and fast.

Dyslexia test in Irealnd said...

Research has shown that certain chromosomes are responsible for passing down from parent to child a dyslexic predisposition. Around 50% of dyslexic children have parents with the same difficulty.

Luqman Michel said...

Regret the late response. I have been away on holiday in china.
Thank you for your information.