Sunday, July 30, 2023

Simple view of reading


Here is a tweet by Dr. Sam Bommarito that I disagree with. I have said this several times and I say it again, I have the highest respect for Dr. Sam and his blog posts but I believe he sometimes gets carried away and says things he ought not to. Here is one such tweet this morning, 30.7.2023.

Dr. Sam Bommarito @DoctorSam7

There is more to reading than just decoding (reading with your eyes). Students need to learn to read with their eyes, ears, mind and heart. That results in READING with comprehension and fluency.  Phonics first can result in creating word callers instead of readers.


When I was growing up there was only one meaning for the word reading. It meant being able to read a sentence. Today it means to be able to read a sentence with understanding/comprehension.

We all know the simple formula - Decoding (D) x (Oral) Language Comprehension (LC) = Reading.

So, teach a kid to decode first using whatever method is suitable. Talk and read to the child and explain words he may not know & this will improve his vocabulary and comprehension. Let us not confuse decoding with vocabulary & comprehension.

Hanyu Pinyin, often shortened to just pinyin, is the foremost romanisation system for Standard Mandarin Chinese. It is used in either a formal, educational or official capacity in countries where the language is official.

I can read anything and everything in Mandarin written in HanYu Pinyin. But, I won’t understand most of what I read because my vocabulary is limited.

I can’t same the same for my English as even at the age of 50 I made a laughing stock of myself in Australia for pronouncing the word Salmon not knowing that the letter L in salmon is silent.  

Do I have a problem with decoding in Pinyin? NO! My problem is with comprehension which is a result of my limited vocabulary. Can I read any passage in Pinyin as fluently as a Chinese? Yes, perhaps better than most Chinese. But the fact remains that I won’t be able to understand what I can read fluently.

If I take a passage in Quantum Physics and give it to Dr. Sam together with the meaning of all the words he may not understand the passage. He won’t because he does not have the background knowledge to understand the passage. That background knowledge has to be built over many years.

So, to continue bickering and saying that decoding is not enough for reading with understanding is simply meaningless.  

Let us find ways to make a child read with understanding.

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