Friday, April 17, 2009

No.21: Learning to Read

Children of the 50s and 60s, in Tupelo and elsewhere, learned to read with Dick and Jane. They were the stars of the Scott, Foresman basal readers of that era, with a supporting cast that included their baby sister Sally, their dog Spot, their cat Puff, and Sally’s teddy bear Tim. Mother and Father appeared in cameo roles.

We learned by reading such exciting sentences as: “See Jane. See Jane run.” Or my all time favorite: “Come, Puff, come.” Imagine a child with no front teeth reading that sentence.

I remember classes being divided into reading groups, but I certainly didn’t understand at the time that we were ability grouped. We sat in little chairs in a circle and watched the teacher introduce new words on a large flip-chart and then each of us read aloud. We were hooked on repetition rather than phonics.

When each of the other groups was in the reading circle, the rest of us did “seatwork” from the board, or we could work on our homework if we had finished our seatwork.

I don’t think that’s how reading is taught in the twenty-first century, but it did seem to work for most of us.

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