Monday, January 23, 2006

People talk of situations, read books, repeat quotations

In Reading I, we talked about the three major predictors of K-2 children learning (or not learning) to read. The three most important, according to decades of research, are:

* Letter name knowledge (both upper and lower case, with automaticity)
* Phonemic awareness (recognition and segmentation ability of sounds)
* Understanding of print concepts (that writing is left to right, top to bottom, that letters make up words, and words have meanings, etc)

Less important are other factors listed, including: hours of TV watched, kindergarten teachers' prediction or expectation, education of parents, history of preschool, gender and handedness, recognition of word meanings, amount that parents read to child, and verbal intelligence.

I call bullshit on this list. It seems to me that most of these factors are interrelated, and how researchers could factor out to the point of disregarding some of them is beyond me. For example, aren't those three main factors above a result of having a high verbal intelligence? Isn't that itself influenced by the amount of TV a child watches, whether she has gone to preschool, and how many books she is read to at home? And, I pointed out in class (though I think it's an unpopular position) isn't parental education level itself an overarching factor, as it often dictates how literate an environment the child is exposed to, the quality of their preschool education, and so on? I just don't see how these factors can be separated as in a vacuum. I understand that some children are dyslexic, and no matter what environmental factors they're exposed to, those three main predictors can still be missing. But aren't educators just avoiding an obvious and unpleasant idea when they won't admit that those three main predictors are a result of not being exposed to literacy at home and in preschool?

We also discussed the idea that "reading should permeate the day." That is, that literacy should be an environment, not a subject. Counting books can be read before a math lesson, books about animals or trees before a science project. Students should always have books within reach for free time or after seatwork is completed. Most of the students agreed with this, saying that in real life, reading is in fact everywhere and that artifically categorizing the day into "reading" and "non-reading" is counterproductive, though there was one woman (who hopes to teach only science) who insisted that "science time is for science, and the kids need a break from reading sometime."

No comments: