Basic Skills? Learning to Read?

As an avid and lifelong lover of reading I never thought I would agree with Socrates’ opinion about reading. That was that reading would reduce our brain function.

But listening to radio discussions about the “new” curriculum it is clear to me that it is happening. Those supporting some silly interventions of more focus on early teaching of “basics” need to take a good hard read of Socrates’ opinion.

Two questions come to my mind. “What actually are basics in life?” And “Have these people ever heard of ‘reading readiness’?”

Basics, to me, are the gathering of knowledge and enhancing abilities, both by discovery and, perhaps even slightly less importantly, by formal learning.

Reading is one way to get this knowledge easily and quickly – yet this medium always makes such knowledge second hand and precludes self discovery! Ok, we do not have to go around every day rediscovering the wheel. But to some extent children should have to do this. If one watches children at play discovery is a great part of play. How to balance toys- we have all seen very tiny tots work this out, to give one small example.

In my career which included teaching, child psychology, having children and grandchildren, I have come upon very many different types of learning. One example is that many clever, involved children come to school and are not particularly interested in the mechanics of merely decoding words. They would rather take apart a toy and reassemble it, would rather gather a collection of nature’s offerings  than see pictures of them in a book. Then, about the age of 8, some discover research and they then learn to read very quickly. These children may be brought to books and reading earlier by the use of maps and diagrams but not by extra decoding skills such as phonics with cats in hats. And while they are learning without reading should this joyous knowledge gathering be spoilt by a task they are not managing and enjoying as well as that of discovery?

With the advent of the wonderful range of IT available I can see some are now satisfying their thirst for more knowledge through podcasts etc.

And why not? The development of language is extremely important in education, for concept formation and for daily life. Oral communication should be a basic in every classroom from K to 12.

The art of reading is not a God to be worshipped. It is a mere tool which is very handy if we understand how to use it and if we keep it sharpened. Teachers can help do this but it is very far from the most basic skill we all need.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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