PHONICS-TALK; The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 71 - November 2015
by Dolores G. Hiskes
TEACHING READING, THEN AND NOW
This newsletter illustrates how reading was taught fifty years ago,
how it is taught today, and shares some summary thoughts. Enjoy!
TEACHING READING THEN (1959)
(As excerpted from *Solomon or Salami?* by Helen R. Lowe,
The Atlantic Monthly, November 1959.)
*Reading is more than a skill. It is an illuminating, enlarging and
quickening experience, to which the majority of our high school
and many of our college graduates are strangers. They read of
their own volition hardly at all, often little beyond the newspapers,
a few magazines, and an occasional best seller.
*Moreover, of those who reach high school level, we are told that only
15 to 20 percent are capable of a rigorous secondary school or college
preparatory program, based on tests and cumulative school records.
*To learn something of the causes, character, and consequences of
what has happened to the teaching of reading let us go straight to
the evidence—to the students themselves—and we shall see that
many of them do not know how to read.
*The misreadings which follow were recorded just as they fell from
the lips of students of excellent and superior abilities. These are errors
made by tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade students, taken at random
from approximately a hundred thousand similar misreadings from the
first grade to the college level:
*Misreadings of this kind can not be detected by standardized group
tests. These are students who passed standardized reading tests and
College Entrance Board Aptitude Tests.
*In addition to these spectacular distortions students make errors of
omission, interpolations, paraphrases, conjectures, and complete
improvisations so that paragraph after paragraph reaches their minds
garbled, blurred, altered, and ungrammatical.
*What children know as reading is a difficult, tedious, confusing, time-
consuming exercise in visual recall, association, invention, prediction,
and substitution. This uncoordinated exertion mutilates or obliterates
the meaning of the writer. Imposed upon students is a perverse and
illogical concept of a word as a visual symbol of meaning instead of
as a symbol of the sound which conveys the meaning.
*Their reading vocabularies are very limited in range, to reading only
words they know and guessing at new words through context clues.
They are confined within the boundaries of their current vocabularies
and thoughts, interpreting things only from within their own shallow
perspectives. The so-called reading of the disabled readers is largely
meaningless, narrow, and without interest.
*Consider the effect of this kind of reading not merely upon the
comprehension of content, but upon the capacity of think critically
about anything at all. There is clear and abundant evidence that this
dislocation of word and meaning carries over to other areas of learning.
*In the field of mathematics, for example, students are handicapped
not only by their inability to read problems but by the very habits of
mind which induced their reading disability. They surmise where they
should calculate, and predict where they should reason.
*These students have no conception of reading as an experience that
carries them beyond themselves, of opening doors that never close again.
How can we teach anything to students who read lazy as snowing,
remember as rabbit, and lieutenant as lunatic?*
(See the original complete 1959 *Solomon or Salami?* article at
TEACHING READING NOW (2015)
DAVID-14 YEARS OLD:
*When our challenged son was 14 we had him tested at Scottish Rite
Hospital because I thought he must have learning disabilities. I homeschooled
him and he struggled so much. Scottish Rite told us David’s IQ was 66 and it
was impossible for him to read at the level he did. So, how come he could read?
Answer: I taught him straight phonics with Phonics Pathways, and I didn’t know
he was mentally challenged, so I expected him to perform normally.*
*My son Jimmy stumbled over the same words and eventually we would have
to stop because we were both frustrated. The reading problem became much
worse when we started reading math problems. It was like he had hit a brick
wall. I called a friend and was just so totally overwhelmed when she suggested
that he might have dyslexia. I had him tested at the Dyslexia Testing Center
in Boaz and found out he was severely dyslexic.
*I was shocked and asked the Dr. how is it that he can read so well. She made
a great statement that profoundly effected my thinking from that moment on.
She said that our children up to 3rd grade are learning to read, but that after
that they must read to learn. So with most dyslexic children they are extremely
smart and have learned to memorize so many words early in reading, and they
can pick information out of the pictures and guess at the words. So when the
material becomes more challenging and less pictures you will start to see reading
problems. You might think your child is just being lazy, I did.
*I understand how to help my son now. He has to be taught phonics first. He has
started to read without any prodding just since the past 2 weeks. To see the light
turned on in his eyes is priceless.*
(Three months later)
*Dolores, I just had to share with you my most wonderful Mother's Day gift I
could ever have asked for. Jimmy went to Walmart with me to shop and he went
running to the cards. He usually looks for a colorful card with child like pictures
and has no idea what the card says. He found what he was looking for and stuffed
it inside the envelope.
*He gave me the card yesterday and before I could open it he said, *Mom, you
know how I have dyslexia and how hard reading has been for me. You know how
hard we have worked this year. Okay now open your card.* Here is the card:
*To My Mom: This is a story about a kid with a mom who believes in him and has
taught him about important stuff- like chasing his dreams and trusting his heart
It's a success story and it was written by you. Happy Mother's Day with love from
*It was all I could do to read through this card. I had no idea the impact I had
on him this year. I had no idea the impact that he made on his own self. He is
so proud that he can read now. Thank you so much, Dolores!*
ADULT & ELL
*After my mom had a stroke she had trouble getting words from her brain to her
mouth. Soon after she was back home I began using Phonics Pathways with her.
She loved it! The sounds were one of the problem read she had, and it helped her
so much. She is writing out her own Christmas cards and reading ‘baby’ books
now. Today I’m proud to say that our library has its own copy of this book. We
also have a growing population of Mexican families in our area, and I notice that
many Hispanic children are using it to learn English.*
Barb Tessmann, Librarian, Oconomowoc, WI
SUMMARY THOUGHTS: BOILING THE FROG
When a frog is placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, it never
realizes it is in danger and is slowly boiled alive. So it is with education today.
The United States continues to lag near the bottom when compared to most
civilized countries today. Increasingly we can see the effects of this all around
us, from pharmacists who misread prescriptions to clerks who cannot add.
Soon we will have another presidential election. If we cannot read or think clearly
and accurately, we tend to believe in slogans rather than analyzing statements
using the subtle reasoning that is so needed to survive in today’s complex society.
We are in danger of being slowly boiled alive because of our creeping illiteracy!
Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes, 2016
Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2016
May be reprinted in entirety with reference to author
Close this window
Return to homepage