On to other things -
As a library staff we have been reading and reviewing Rita Soltan's book Solving the Reading Riddle: The Librarian's Guide to Reading Instruction.
Here is my review of Chapter One, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it - yes, I enjoyed writing it.
by Rita Soltan
A Review of Chapter 1 by Amy
p.s. any mistakes or misinterpretations are my fault and not Rita's
We’ve come a long way baby…
We started with the new big thing, a revolutionary breakthrough, Basal Readers, ie: Dick and Jane. These didactic and culturally white-washed sight readers were exactly what schools needed. Predictable text with illustrations of kids doing what was taking place in the text, great for providing visual clues to beginning readers just starting out.
Ah, but enter the 1960’s and cultural awareness. In comes synthetic fabrics to make your life easier, wash and wear spandex , and along with that; a new synthetic code-breaking approach for our early readers, Phonics, ie: huked on fonics werked fer me! It didn’t take long, what with child invented spelling, and more classroom failures, for us to realize that the phonics decoding method was not all it was cracked up to be, there were still too many floundering readers.
So it was back to Basal Readers, albeit, with a more diversified cast of characters to appeal to the culturally aware or spoon fed to those unaware. Back to a ‘Dick and Jane’ method of sight reading, but with new emphasis on trade literature, a lucrative business as it turned out for the publishing industry. But still, even with review questions following each little story, even with a more relaxed and less controlled vocabulary, with its lengthy teacher’s guides and even scripts, the results were still not up to par. Great literature was being revamped to the point that it was dull and boring, and moreover, children were being grouped by reading level within the classroom – from the best to the worst and every kid in class knew it.
What to do? Well, it was now time for the Whole Language revolution. A new revolution this time, one of listening, reading and writing! Surely this ‘whole’ approach would work. Unfortunately the teachers were given training and directives for changing their classroom, but given minimal to no support for implementation. Gone were the pre-packaged basal reading classroom packages, teachers were now expected to create their own literacy program. Misused and misunderstood, the Whole Language had, once again, despite some success, failed our would-be readers.
Enter the 'Voice of Reason', a program for the twenty-first century, or—more pragmatically—it’s the current working theory… Balanced Literacy
Now it isn’t sounding out the words that are important, it’s being able to read independently. No longer just basal, no longer just decoding, it is going to take all the methods—together—to assist emergent readers in:
-Deciphering word shapes into sounds and meaning
-Incorporating instinctive and sophisticated guessing
-Using prediction and anticipation to create comprehension
-Adding linguistic clues to gain comprehension
(you know what black is when you encounter it because you already know white)
-And resorting to sounding out words that are not in their sight repertoire
(the same as non-medical adults do when confronted with a medical text or other unfamiliar tome)
The news so far is good, although there are still some struggling readers that are still being left in the lurch, despite our current ‘balanced’ approach.
In the end, it’s going to take a village, or in my personal view; fabulous storytime, impossible to resist laptime and numerous encounters with caring and engaging librarians in the very earliest stages of life, for the littlest of the littles to gain a familiarity, a fondness and a firm grasp on what is reading, and how to do it.
In the words of Joaquin Miller in Columbus, “Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"
Carry on librarians and storytellers, help these kids conquer new worlds, explore new horizons and break through all barriers—reading and otherwise—through an early love of literature! Carry on! Carry on! and on!