Saturday, March 27, 2004

More on Learning to Read

Here's another article, this time by Sarah McGinnis of the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, on that most curious of teaching practices, the "whole word" method of reading education. There have appeared on the horizon some hopeful signs that the proponents of this irrational approach have begun to give way to something more enlightened, if not new.

Korzybski recommended that we make every effort to align our thinking and speaking with the structure of the subject about which we want to think and speak. In the case of reading, if we would teach children to read any word they encounter, we must first acknowledge the nature of words and how they develop. Very few words came into existence in their current form and with a single sense and sound. Instead, most words evolved from simple basic sounds and individual kernels of meaning.

To learn to read language, you can either try to memorize thousands of words with no understanding of their lineage, or you can learn the bones of the language and thereby learn to decode the unfamiliar whole by recognizing the known pieces. Thus when a reader comes across a word such as "television" as a whole word reader, they must know the word or guess at it from context. As a phonetic reader, they can likely detect the building blocks of "tele" and "vision" and at least pronounce the word, and probably figure out the meaning as well.

Which makes more sense to you? If I may paraphrase--give a child a word and he can read that word. Teach a child how to decipher words, and he can read anything.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
-Heraclitus, philosopher (c. 540-470 BCE)

Monday, March 01, 2004


The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
-William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (1811-1863)