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Reading…Naturally

A good read on reading by my son Nick:

Nicholas Meier

I was recently covering a Language and Literacy class for a colleague of mine. The students were teacher credential candidates. For part of the session the students divided into “centers.” In one of the centers one student was presenting to the others about “Concepts of Print.” In her talk, I overheard her say how reading “is not natural.” Her statement struck me. What I gathered she meant by it is that many aspects of reading are arbitrary, and therefore should be taught explicitly, e.g., that we read form right to left, which side is the front and which side is that back of a book.

FC Reading

I do not know where she came up with the phrase of reading “not being natural,” and did not get an opportunity to ask her about it. However, I think it plays into a larger debate about reading. To what extent is learning to read…

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One Response

  1. I look forward to learning more about speaking and listening, and the relationship of vernacular speech to reading print.

    In my neck of the woods, some 7th grade students did not understand the written word drawing and did not spell it “correctly” because the word is pronounced draw-ling. They could properly identify a drawling as different from a painting.

    I am not an literacy expert but learning “standard English” seems to be the primary aim of formal education in school, with reading and writing favored over speaking and listening as means of communication…and as if non-verbal, non-discursive communication is of marginal value.

    Teachers who work with students who are learning English or who are unable or unwilling to communicate fluently for other reasons discover that students have other means of communication. I think there is more ‘multilingualism” in becoming “literate” ( including code-switching based on social proprieties and pressures) than is generally acknowledged, even among speakers of the same dialects. I recall Robert Linn reported that one of the most interesting findings from international tests is the high correlation between the same language, being present in the home and school, extending to dialects, vernaculars.

    Idioms are wonderful in revealing the complexity of learning any language. A French surgeon bought and studied tapes of “American English, including one that had the sentence “My you are good-looking tomato,” presented as that was a good opener for conversation.

    She mastered the phrase. During a cocktail hour at a convention of surgeons in NYC, she approached one of her peers, a male, and offered what she thought was a gender neutral conversation starter: “My you’re good looking tomato.”

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