Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Blaming Phonics

Here is part of a conversation I had in a group on FB. If more parents open up and write like this lady, many teachers and parents will benefit a great deal from the discussions in that group. 

1.Research says that the best way to getting better at reading is Reading.
2.The problem is not insufficient phonics teaching as some claim, but it is insufficient access to books.
3.Research tells us that better libraries is associated with better reading scores.

My comment: The lady quoted what Prof Stephen Krashen had once said. Many of us get carried away with what professors say when in fact most of them do not know what they are talking about. This I have explained in my blog where I have quoted actual names of the professors.

  • 1.       Is that not a truism? Of course we all get better at reading by reading (and looking up words we do not know.)
  • 2.       This is nonsense, if we care to think a little. I live in the capital city of Sabah. We have a few libraries and all the parents who have brought their children to me for tuition are rich and have books at home. Yet, their children could hardly read when they came to me. Most of my former classmates come from poor homes where neither parents nor friends speak English. We had no access to libraries and yet we learned English. The Westerners have come up with excuses to explain why kids who have not been taught properly cannot read and they blame it on poverty and lack of books.
  • 3.       Who did the research? With so many libraries in Kota Kinabalu don’t about 30% of kids leave school as illiterates each and every year? Are there no kids leaving school as illiterates in Indian cities (where this discussion is taking place)? Are all the rich kids able to read because they have access to books and libraries?

Lady: My younger daughter who is an auditory learner has vocabulary and language abilities which are above grade level. But has big challenge with reading (decoding text). But she simply loved being read to from a very early age, to the extent that I complain that she has been using me as a reading assistant as she is lazy. We (school and parents) have struggled a lot...but she has now started reading and writes her own spellings for words. But what I observe is that her sentences/stories are much better than what my other daughter who was a very early reader (decoder) could produce at the same age. What I am trying to say is, the technique of reading (or decoding) will eventually come to you, but what is more important is the habit and love you develop for reading.
My comment :"....the technique of reading (or decoding) will eventually come to you, but what is more important is the habit and love you develop for reading..." I am afraid I have to disagree with this. It is fortunate that your daughter somehow picked up the 'technique of reading'. But many kids shut down from learning to read and if you check, most of these kids who leave school as illiterates are very smart kids. Many of these kids misbehave in school to avoid shame.

Additional comment: What does the lady mean by ‘Auditory learner’? This is another one of those gimmicks used by Westerners to explain away why kids cannot read. We all learn auditorily, visually and kinetically. Of course some of us are better visually than auditorily vice versa.
I will bet that her daughter is not lazy but is a smart girl who has shut down because of wrong teaching of phonemes.

Lady: My daughter was trained on phonics based reading, but it had very limited effect on improving her reading skills in my opinion. It was her urge to listen to stories that helped more than the phonics skills is what I think. After years of being used as a reading assistant :), just last week I told her, now that she knows how to read (albeit with struggle), she do her bedtime reading on her own...I am just giving a personal example...cannot say this is true for everybody...For example, this may not be true for rural children in India who do not have much English in their environment...
My comment:” I am just giving a personal example...cannot say this is true for everybody” – this is true for all kids who are predisposed to shutting down. Based on what she has told thus far I would say her daughter falls into the category of a shut down kid. She is a victim of being taught phonics incorrectly.

If she can speak well in English and yet could not read, chances are she is a shut down kid. 

Rural kids can be taught to read just as well as kids in town if Phonics is taught correctly. Most of my classmates went to school without knowing a word of English and our parents could not speak English. The only English we ever heard was in school.

Lady: What is meant by a shut down kid?
My comment: I answered her. Let us see what she says. I told her that if her daughter is asked for the sounds of some of the consonants she will answer with extraneous sounds. F would be fer/fur; M will be ma or mer; S will be sir/sur.I am waiting for her reply.

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