Read Assure: Guaranteed Formula for Reading Success with Phonics

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In societies that still live according to this model, elegant indigenous pedagogies have developed over millennia that are so attuned to the natural development of children that complex and nuanced skills can be acquired in ways that appear almost effortless. Any Gikuyu mother in Kenya knows that you wait to give a child a task until you see that she is ready for it. Any Baiga father in the forests of India knows that if a child tries something and then backs away, you leave him alone, because he will be back to try again later.

Any Fore parent from Papua New Guinea knows that children sometimes learn best by emulating older children, not by being taught by adults. People all over the world know these things about children and learning, and interestingly, they are as workable for learning how to design software or conduct a scientific experiment or write an elegant essay as they are for learning to hunt caribou or identify medicinal plants in a rainforest.

Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life.

And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged. It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. In a trio of researchers from the University of British Columbia published a paper that reverberated through the social sciences.

Joseph Henrich, Steven J. After reviewing a comparative database from across the behavioral sciences, Henrich et al.

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It turns out that Americans are at the far end of the spectrum in their preference for competition over cooperation; for self-promotion over humility; for analytical over holistic thinking; for individual rather than collective success; for direct rather than indirect communication; for hierarchical rather than egalitarian conceptions of status. So in school we urge our children to strive to be better than their friends and we praise them publicly if they succeed, where many other societies would consider this to be extremely bad manners.

We focus on our children directly and tell them exactly what we want them to know, where in many other societies adults expect children to observe their elders closely and follow their example voluntarily. If Americans are outliers among outliers, then the subculture of American institutional schooling, which makes increasingly rigid demands on very young children and suppresses more and more of their natural energies and inclinations, is an outlier to that. The human species is extremely malleable and variable, but not infinitely so, and what you see in individual children as our culture grows more and more extreme is that the underlying species nature re-emerges, sometimes disruptively.

Like people who try to keep wolves as pets, we find that some of our children start to chew through their leashes. One day I watched a 9-year-old boy as he led a group of children scrambling over Vasquez Rocks, a great sandstone formation that slants up out of the California desert.

What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning - The Washington Post

He was one of those magnetic, electrical, radiant boys; kind to the younger ones, strong, quick, inquisitive, sharp as a tack, his eyes throwing sparks in the clear air. It was a joy just to watch him, I said to the friend standing beside me. She told me he had just been diagnosed with ADHD. When you see children who do not learn well in school, they will often display characteristics that would be valued and admired if they lived in any number of traditional societies around the world.

They are physically energetic; they are independent; they are sociable; they are funny. They like to do things with their hands. They crave real play, play that is exuberant, that tests their strength and skill and daring and endurance; they crave real work, work that is important, that is concrete, that makes a valued contribution. They dislike abstraction; they dislike being sedentary; they dislike authoritarian control. They like to focus on the things that interest them, that spark their curiosity, that drive them to tinker and explore.

One in twenty, one in ten, one in seven of our precious bright-eyed children, we are told, have some kind of organic brain defect that disables them as learners. But any Maori parent knows that you have to watch a child patiently, quietly, without interference, to learn whether he has the nature of the warrior or the priest. Our children come to us as seeking beings, Maori teachers tell us, with two rivers running through them — the celestial and the physical, the knowing and the not-yet-knowing.

Their struggle is to integrate the two. Our role as adults is to support this process, not to shape it. It is not ours to control. She was two and a half. So I always knew this child had a gift for words. She loved to be read to, she made up stories and songs and poems and plays; she invented her own mythologies; she composed endless letters to her beloved granny. She did not go to school, so this did not pose a problem for her or for anyone else. She was part of a group of kids whose sense of politeness dictated that they not make a big issue about reading or any other skill that one kid had and another kid lacked.

If they were playing a game and needed to read something, or making up a play and wanted to write something, they would just find a kid or an adult who could do it. A few times I tried, while reading her a story, to run my finger under the words as I read them, or to point out the sounds that certain letters make. I began to notice that it was as though she was actually averse to focusing on the print on the page. She memorized whole books, whole poems, but she did it by sound, not sight.

She drew from somewhere deep inside, her lines fluid, deft, intuitive. Although she had tried not to interfere, she could no longer contain the scientific certainty of her advanced degrees and her forty years of professional experience and her steady access to the best available data; in real anguish she burst out: And for Isabel that window occurred when she was about four years old! I learned to read when I was four because I loved all those things. Isabel is terrified of them. She has no desire to be left alone with those stories. She wants a grown-up to read them to her.

It sort of wilted like a flower, in fact.

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Her voice got very soft. She no longer wanted to wait for an adult to have time to read to her; she needed to know what happened next, dragons or no dragons. How did this happen? This is an important point.

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The cognitive processes which underlie literacy are complex beyond your wildest imagination; our scientific understanding of them is in its early infancy. It happens all the time. In other words, we are embarrassing ourselves in the eyes of future generations with our claims that we can identify reading skills and disabilities with blurry patches of color on a functional MRI image. The science is just not there yet.

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  • But any Maori mother knows that children do not learn in a straight upward line but in a stair-step pattern. They leap forward, then plateau for a while, then leap forward again. Then suddenly they soar. You have to be there, providing warmth and stability, providing tools and resources, answering questions, telling stories, having meaningful adult conversations and doing meaningful adult work in their presence. Any Cree parent knows that you can tell when a child is ready for something because he will begin to ask questions about it. Even in WEIRD societies, everybody knows that there is a normal range of several months during which a child will say her first words or take her first steps.

    A child who walks at 10 months will not necessarily be more physically talented than a child who walks at 14 months, and pediatricians spend much of their day reassuring us of this and encouraging us not to compare our children to each other. But as a child moves through the life cycle, from first steps and first words to toilet training to losing baby teeth to riding a bicycle to reaching puberty, the normal range of variation does not decrease — it increases. A completely normal healthy girl may reach puberty at nine or at fifteen, a normal range of several years.

    Reading compounds this variability with the enormous complexity of the cognitive, visual, auditory, emotional, physical, and social dimensions which must all be mature and working together in the growing child for fluent literacy to emerge.

    How to: Phonics Instruction

    And yet we have created a multi-billion-dollar compulsory institution with its ancillary multi-billion dollar industries that all rest on the idea that children should reach this milestone at the same age. One day when my daughter was eight we had the feeling that she and her best friend Raphael were up to something, and we found them huddled together with a book, trying to figure out what it said.

    When I entered the room they looked up like kids who were caught doing something illicit. They have a remarkable sense of dignity and autonomy, and they defend it fiercely. They want their learning to be their own. Over time all the kids in their little group became fluent readers. They learned from cereal boxes and street signs and Sesame Street, from computers and books and big sisters, from stories and songs and and plays and poems, from board games and video games and word games, from recipes and labels and assembly instructions, from letters to grannies, from their parents, from each other.

    The idea that there is a relationship between letters and sounds is ubiquitous in the culture, and kids are going to encounter the proposition somewhere along the way that M is for Monkey and S is for Snake. Some of the kids used phonics workbooks or computer programs, or they picked up workbooks for a while and then got bored and set them aside. The point is that they learned to read the way we all learned to use computers; flexibly, idiosyncratically, each in whatever way and at whatever time and pace worked best for him. A phonics program is simply a tool to use or not, as you are so inclined, like a computer manual; some people may use it systematically, some sporadically, some never.

    When kids are allowed to begin reading when they are interested and ready, numerous anecdotal reports indicate something like a flattened bell curve distribution that runs from about age four or five to age ten or eleven, with the peak of the bell spread out widely through the range although psychologist Peter Gray reports that the cultural practice of texting may be shifting the average earlier.

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    Why do some children read later than others? But many late readers have high levels of interest and ability in the mechanical, musical, spatial, mathematical, or digital realms. Many are gifted in the performing arts or athletics. Some simply have a different learning strategy; one that absorbs, considers, consolidates, integrates, and then suddenly blossoms fully formed. This crucial consultant offers you a adapted creation to the layout innovations and creation practices hired within the media undefined. A Writer's Guide to Persistence: Your writing trip can take you several locations: Even the siren music of popularity and fortune can distract you out of your precise objective: How to Write No-Doze Prose.

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