Name: Nanette Buchanan
Title: Reading is Fundamental
Reading is fundamental. This statement speaks volumes as it should be coupled with the ability to comprehend what you read. The evolution of learning began with the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic. The application of writing and arithmetic is not possible without one being able to read. Reading is a necessity regardless to what school of learning, profession or entertainment one chooses.
Over the years the method of learning to read has changed. I can remember the alphabet drills, the Dick and Jane readers, flash cards, etc. that taught children at a young age how to pronounce, spell and use letters to communicate. A child was able to form a word using its phonetic spelling. Phonics was taught through drills that emphasized prefixes, suffixes, long and short vowels. Teaching these basic skills, the student was able to sound out (speaking aloud) words both long and short. Phonics was coupled with the use of a dictionary which would give not only the description but how the word would be broken down into syllables. The definition and pronunciation of the word allowed the reader to comprehend what was to be read in a sentence.
In the early stages of learning one may ‘sight read’. This type of learning is often used when teaching preschool children. Books or sentences used for this purpose most often have pictures of the word to be read. The picture with the word allows the early reader to recognize the word using memory and sight. This method also helps them to speak and spell the larger words which may otherwise be pronounced and spelled wrong, (e.g. alligator, refrigerator). Early readers use their memory when seeing the word without the picture.
Using the flash cards without the pictures is often the next step. Repetitive spelling and usage in sentences is reinforced with a spelling list. Words selected from stories are a part of the drill. The student can then identify the word in a sentence and begin to comprehend what has happened or may happen in the story. Most often during this stage the young reader may still want to interpret the picture avoiding the words they may not be familiar with. The teacher or parent should incorporate the use of the dictionary for pronunciation and definition when a word is unfamiliar to the reader. This habit will strengthen one’s reading and comprehension skills.
As the reader becomes confident, the use of the picture books can be replaced with chapter books. For elementary learners, they can now move on and apply the spelling list in sentences they create. The ability to write complete sentences and apply new words builds a skill that is necessary in later years of learning. Book reports, essays and other writings often give credence to the student’s level of reading, comprehension, as well as their ability to write. The English language has been said to be the most difficult language to learn. Words that sound the same may not be spelled the same or have the same definition, (e.g. there, their; blue, blew). There are also words that take on a different definition when used in a sentence, (e.g. John turned at the stop sign; John didn’t know where to sign the document). Grammar comes into play when comprehending these sentences. The understanding of a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective and its usage is imperative to be able to read, comprehend and write.
As the student moves forward, beyond elementary education, the need to read becomes evident. This skill is one that will always be needed to function daily. Written communication is used in every facet of life. The reading and the comprehension of the written word goes well beyond sight reading; its value is incomparable. Reading is fundamental and as minute as it may seem it has been the success and failure of many.
The inability to read hinders intellectual elevation, materialistic gains, and in years gone by it helped manipulate generations of slaves and immigrants. Contracts, laws, higher education, employment, housing, loans and list goes on; without one being able to read they fall victim to scams and theft.
Reading, writing and arithmetic….. the three fundamental learnings taught daily are often overlooked as imperative and have given way to the usage of modern technology. Text messaging, e-mails, and other ways of electronic communication have created another language, and a different method of comprehension. The use of complete sentences coupled with shortening the spelling of words (e.g. bff – best friend forever, rofl- rolling on the floor laughing) has become the norm. Those who have the know-how have replaced the basic skill of writing with this new form of written communication. Reading and comprehending these communications has caused a stir in teaching. There have been complaints regarding students who now write as they text with broken sentences and/or letter abbreviations.
Avid readers have not abandoned their “good books” especially now that e-books have emerged. The e-books put a novel or text book in a written format that can be used on a kindle, note pad, nook, Sony reader and other e-readers. The enjoyment one feels when reading is second to none. Some have described it as a method of escape, a fulfillment of fantasy, or a pleasurable journey.
However, if one has never learned to enjoy reading or never learned the basic skills, they may assume this form of word usage is the “new grammar” and is accepted. This creates a broken language both spoken and written. I often cringe as I listen to discussions promoting this “new grammar” as part of the learning cycle. Our children are now being taught without the use of phonics, which has been taken out of most reading classes. They utilize computer learning and although they have learned this created new form communication, they still have to learn how to read. There’s no way around it……. Reading is fundamental.
Consider this scenario…..
Coworkers often read the memos as posted by the Personnel Department for job promotions and incidental notifications. Richard and Larry work in the same department and have become close friends. Larry has confided in Richard that he should have stayed in school. Reading was his most difficult subject and now as an adult he reads very little and if he can get by he prefers not to read at all. Richard has carried Larry, doing most of the posted readings for him. He explains the postings and what message they are conveying. Richard takes a two week vacation and a memo comes out asking employees to fill out information for transfers. It also states that these forms should be done by the end of the shift to be considered for the new positions. Richard has completed his form prior to his vacation. Larry neglects to read the board and receives a layoff notice the week of Richard’s return. Not knowing what it is, he gives it to Richard to read and explain. Richard is upset with himself. There is nothing he can do now to help his friend. Larry was laid off the same day the transfers were approved. Larry doesn’t blame Richard but he has lost his job and faces new perils in seeking employment. The outcome has caused him to accept his loses and he signs up for a reading course so he can get his GED. Reading is fundamental.