Why Kids Can’t Read

Republicans and conservatives have largely forfeited the arenas of the dominent media, pop culture, and the public schools to the political left. Defeat in the information war isn’t the only consequence.

I’ve linked to several Bruce Deitrick Price articles over the years (you can read them here) — and here’s yet another excellent post from him over at American Thinker.

In all reading theories, there is a fundamental concept known as automaticity. This means you know or can do something instantly, automatically. Reading happens fast. If you don’t know something with automaticity, you might as well not know it at all.

So the question quickly becomes, what exactly are children supposed to learn – that is, memorize – with automaticity? On this question hangs the fate of our school system, and perhaps our civilization.

Traditionally, children memorized 26 English letters. Virtually the entire population can do this in a month or two, even at a young age. At the end of the process, people can look at a large group of letters and instantly identify each one, no matter the size, color, or typeface, no matter whether it’s uppercase or lowercase, no matter whether it’s tilted or slightly defaced. And humans can do this at a quite extraordinary speed (about 2 per second), with no errors and no guessing. That’s automaticity in action.

Focus on what an accomplishment this is. Flexibility is as dazzling as speed. Anybody who has looked at a book of typefaces knows that each letter can appear in thousands of different ways. There are scripts and novelty faces. I suspect that we can read letters upside-down almost as quickly as right-side-up.  All this is possible because the symbols we are trying to memorize are simple and compact, with the minimum of strokes needed to create a distinctive design.

This set of 26 symbols, instantly identified, is the basis of phonetic reading and the traditional starting point for all education. Children learn the symbols and then the sounds that they represent. Next, students learn to blend those sounds, and then to read (sound out) these blends. Marva Collins said that she could teach all children, no matter their age, to read by Christmas of their first year of schooling.  A mere four months.

Conversely, in most public schools, by Christmas of their first year, most children have learned next to nothing. What’s gone wrong? Why do we have an illiteracy crisis in our country, with more than 40 million functional illiterates?

Here we get to the great bait-and-switch of the 20th century. The Education Establishment changed the set of items to be memorized from 26 individual letters to several thousand large, complex designs known as words.

Read more: American Thinker

Image credit: www.mercatornet.com.