I would much prefer a single understandable, actionable insight. Without it, this interview seems rather hollow. From this interview, I'm led to expect that the real insight from the book is that "teachers should study behavioral science, congnitive science, and brain development," which is too loose a central thesis to capture my interest.
I suppose what I've really gathered from this interview is two things: firstly, I would like to know a bit more about the gap is between how kids learn to read and how they should learn to read; secondly, I do not intend on reading Seidenberg's book (i.e. the book this interview is centered around) to find out.
Occasionally they will actually read short passages from readers. After they read anything they will have to fill in some sort of (standards aligned) paperwork. They will never have extended reading time in class.
As an example, a 1st grade reading teacher needs to cover
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.(1-10) (reading literature);
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.(1-10) (reading information text); and
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.(1-4) (but actually 15 substandards) (foundational skills).
Actual standards at http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RF/1/
I should note that we're in a not-terrific school district, and that there's a whole chain of people from the teacher up to state legislators on up to, I suppose, Betsy DeVos who can effect how the standards are addressed.
I will admit we did read to them every night since they were babies, so that's probably also helpful. But kids usually love the bedtime story.
That people can say that with a straight face indicated to me that we have a real problem in teacher education . The standards you link may be different than what is addressed in lesson plans that have been handed down with only incremental modification for decades, but nothing about them seems to difficult to develop a year-long lesson plan that incorporates then.
> They will never have extended reading time in class.
Which is hard to blame on the standard you post, since you almost certainly cannot properly assess CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.4.A without it.
 and, to be fair, also in allocating work time and pay for the one-time effort of initial curriculum development to support the new standards; the effort is clearly different than adapting existing lesson plans to incremental changes to legacy standards.
My state adopted new social studies standards last year and will require that they be taught in all grade levels as of next year. They allowed time for phasing them in due in part to the knowledge that there is no money behind redoing the lessons that teachers will need to develop and also no money for curriculum purchases to support it. Last weekend my wife went to a training on the new standard which we paid for out of our own pocket as one example.
The problem isn't translating a single standard into a single lesson or set of lessons, it's putting three sets of reading standards, a writing standard, a speaking & listening standard, and a language standard into a coherent, interesting curriculum. It's not impossible, but it's a lot to expect from, say, a small group of first grade teachers.
Little kids want to read about flinging poo, farting, projectile vomit, violence, and every possible misbehavior.
Supposed "children's books" are actually marketed toward grandmothers and public school librarians.
I object to it for a completely different reason: bad spelling and grammar. I think a kid's book should set a perfect example.
One reason we sent our daughters to (private) Montessori school was to have teachers and lessons completely free from Common Core.
Note that Bill Gates also sent his children to a private school that never adopted Common Core, although he was instrumental in pushing and forcing Common Core requirements across the public schools of the country.
Are you implying that his children were subjected to Common Core, or that they couldn't have? by 2011, they were age 9, 12, and 15.
"Phonics" is mentioned a few times in the interview, ie, the connection between (English) spelling of written words and the spoken language they represent. I immediately found myself wondering how this relates to how children learn to read in other languages whose written forms are either far more phoenetically entwined with their spoken forms (eg, Portugese and Finnish, as I understand it), or far less (eg, Mandarin or Arabic). (I'm sure I'm oversimplifying complex relationships and reality in the overbroad sentence I just wrote, but I'm happy to hear how my received CW is wrong about these languages.)
Anecdatally: when my own daughter was about four, we had some friends whose son had learned to read from a Phonics book at four, and when we knew him at five, he could read pretty much anything you put in front of him (how much he understood, who knows, but he could translate the text into spoken language that we could understand). Both her mother and I were also reading at four, and so we expected our daughter would be able to do the same. We were inspired by this kid's example to get our daughter started early, and tried the same Phonics book with her.
Unfortunately, she didn't take to it so well. She seemed to understand what was happening well enough, but it never clicked or became natural, and it was ultimately a frustrating experience for us and our daughter. So we eventually stopped the lessons, and let her learn at her own pace. She happily made it through kindergarten and first grade without really showing any interest in or being able to read with any proficiency. She was clearly smart, and her teachers told us not to worry about it. Then in second grade mid-year, something just clicked, and she started voraciously consuming books, with her reading ability testing well above grade level.
Now at 16, she's still a voracious reader, and a writer who has completed NaNoWriMo three times, reads and writes every second of the day, and has an incredibly sophisticated grasp on storytelling, analyzing the writing behind books and movies and TV shows with a clarity that I personally have never had.
So, how did she learn to read? I have no idea. It wasn't phonics. But I suspect she would have managed it no matter what instruction she received. I also doubt that she is really a meaningful example, other than to say that it's complicated, and humans vary in their learning styles, and we should focus on the goal of reading and comprehending, trying to discover all the ways that individuals can and do learn to read, and having our teachers focus on identifying and encouraging the best methods for each student and not so much on imposing specific mechanics of how the statistically typical student achieves reading proficiency.
I think John Taylor Gatto pointed out that some children learn to read when they're 2, some when they're 8, and by the time they're 12 you can't tell the difference.
I met a man who was traumatized when his first grade teacher tried to force him to read, before he was ready. The lesson was put in front of him, and 1st-grade-him thought he was stupid for not being able to perform.
"illiterate for years" is of no consequence when we are talking about 5-8 year old children. The point was there was no discernible difference in children who learned to read a a variety of ages.
In factory schools, if one is "delayed", that classification/label is attached to the child and becomes a part of their identity. Few escape it. Similarly, one who reads well at age three is held up as "gifted", and placed on a social/academic pedestal.
People have a wide variance of ability and timing during normal development. saying "it's much less stressful to learn to read early" is arrogant and naive. It's extraordinarily stressful to a child to be told they are stupid/slow when they are simply not ready, and stereotyped and classified as a result.
Gatto's quip aside, there are actual studies that look at correlations. "Using third-grade national percentile rankings... into below (0-24th national percentile), at (25th-74th national percentile) and above grade level (75th-100th national percentile) groupings, we find correlational evidence that students who were at and above grade level in third grade graduate and attend college at higher rates than their peers who were below grade level in third grade." https://www.chapinhall.org/sites/default/files/Reading_on_Gr...
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reading-and-maths... found a 10% difference in earnings at age 30 for differences in reading skill at age 10.
Now, for why phonics and syllabic method had been replaced with the whole word method here in Brazil... that's another and long story.
EDIT 1: typo.
The whole-word method is required for Chinese languages. Phonics is obviously proper for Spanish and Russian.
English is not so extreme. Phonics is useful, but it falls short. I've seen the disaster that is pure phonics with English, leading to a kid who mostly couldn't read at age 14. On the other hand, it will be hard to develop a decent vocabulary with the whole-word method. A hybrid approach works nicely.
See phonics fail on The Chaos:
 teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons, and associated school curricula from the same author
I got the recommendation here in HN and I used the book with my 2 daughters. I started with my first daughter when she was 4.5 years old. I started with my second daughter at an older age because she was showing a slight case of dyslexia. It took 2 years to finish the book with each of them. After they were done they could read everything. My second daughter is 9 and is almost done with Oliver Twist.
Read this comment by tokenadult:
"Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" has been recommended ancedata-ly to me.
It uses the DISTAR method which seems to have the most empirical evidence supporting it. (The controversy over DISTAR appears to me to be that it's boring for the teacher)
Neither of them actually finished all 100 lessons. At some point, they both preferred moving on to actual books rather than doing the remaining lessons. So a little boring for the student as well, apparently.
We used it with our son, with fantastic results. He’s now almost seven and reads voraciously.
Edit: on review, I got the rec from the same user you did. Years later and I’m even more grateful he shared that book here.
This is almost certainly wrong and even logically absurd. I am sure there are more optimal ways to learn to read but any kind with a fair IQ who aren't dyslexic can learn to read.
My son isn't a genius, but he have been practicing reading since he was 5 and today at 8 he reads Harry Potter.
The trick (as with almost any other field)? Practice, practice, practice. That's it. There is no magic sauce there.
One thing that we found that actually increased his lust for reading (he definitely would rather play soccer, Minecraft or Rayman) is to give him a Kindle which has a kids app with achievements and daily reading goals.
It's sad that so few kids read at their grade level but it's not because of sub-optimal teaching methods that much is for sure.
Practice isn't the only ingredient to the magic sauce. The learning input also has to be in a form which the learner can understand.
If i tell you to practice a backflip until you can do it you'll likely injure yourself - or walk away, frustrated - before you can do it. If i would analyze the and split up the movement and teach it to you in little steps you will most likely learn it faster. If we could use a trampolin you'd learn even faster.
How to break things down into little steps is one of the most important parts of teaching. The other one - you're correct there - is how to foster motivation.
> It's sad that so few kids read at their grade level but it's not because of sub-optimal teaching methods that much is for sure.
My observation as a teacher is, that some are frustrated. Maybe they hit a wall (a steep learning curve) with their learning and weren't motivated enough to push through. More motivation could help, but so could a learning design that doesn't have walls/steep learning curves.
But to most people and to any extent we can talk about education, in general, I think my point stands but i agree there are of course also other things.
There seemed to be a set of knowledge that makes things easier. And separate category of knowledge around choosing the book the kid has a chance to like to read.
That sounds so strange to me. I was an avid reader for as long as I can remember - and my motivator were interesting stories. I also had parents and grandparents who themselves loved to read. Of course, I didn't have the alternative of computers until I was almost an adult, and the web only was developed while I was at university already. So I am not putting too much of an emphasize on my own experience.
I could even imagine that setting a motivator that lies outside the task itself may have long-term negative consequences. It should be the task itself. I know a lot of people think things like work are counter examples - we work because we want something else, but I think that too is wrong. I always loved work, even mundane routine jobs, from early on I worked in factory settings (e.g. during longer school breaks, I grew up in East Germany) and even boring things like working on a machine the production line of a brewery (doing the same simple things over and over all day long) were fun, knowing that my job had a purpose. Only when people treated me like I had to be "motivated" (by pressure), for example when some supervisor in a chocolate factory saw me doing nothing (I had just carefully prepared a machine and was now observing its progress - it was the opposite of "doing nothing") my job motivation went from 100% to 0 in a heartbeat. I think when motivation is not there it probably is a pull issue, not a push issue. When I see purpose (incl. the one of serving society) at the far end I like doing even boring tasks, was my experience since childhood. Okay, that last comment leaves the topic at head behind, there only is what I said in my first sentence.
The interesting stories as motivator works for kids that already know how to read and need just some more practice. And when the books the child is inclined to read are already collected and available - when the kid is starting, it takes multiple attempts to figure out what it is that child will like.
Oddly enough I am a dyslexic but had zero problems with reading- writing, spelling and grammar not so much - chiz
The age to start is a very different subject, I'm not convinced that rushing this is useful (nor that it hurts). Of course it depends on the overall situation, I don't want to lean out very far on anything I'm saying here. I might look at what else the kid does. If the child is active I probably wold not care if it starts reading at 5 or at 7. I think - and I also base that on a basic (but not more) knowledge of neuroscience - that moving is much more important in the early years.
At least, until I started learning Japanese. After a few years of that, I realized that the pain I was feeling while reading Japanese kids' books is what all kids feel when learning to read initially. It's just been so long ago that I've forgotten it.
In short, reading slowly is very painful. You know that others can read quickly, but you can't. You know that there's a good story there, but it's constantly interrupted by trying to pronounce things, trying to remember what words mean (or worse, looking them up!), or skipping them and trying to figure out what they mean from context.
It's way more painful than you remember.
Something that encouraged me to read with outside motivations would be welcome to me. So that Kindle kids app actually sounds awesome to me as a middle-aged adult right now.
Also, I learned one other language - English - (I'm a German speaker) when I already was an adult, and pretty late too. I didn't have enough proficiency for daily life until I was almost 20, and even from there I had a decade of learning (example: no problems reading Stephen King - then I started The Lord of the Rings and for the first fifty pages had to consult the dictionary at least a few times per page; same with the jump from a newspaper like the SF Chronicle to The Economist, the same thing happened, again). But I never needed - or got - external motivation.
I'm not trying to make the (useless) point that everybody should have that kind of intrinsic motivation, I'm just saying this in response to what I think is your misunderstanding of the direction I took in my original comment. Remember my original reply was specifically about the use of "gaming" style of learning, make everything a goal and award points and use an app for that (which has become a popular topic in a much wider context over the last decade, it's even suggested for corporations).
If gamification helps a kid learn to read faster and happier, why not do it?
I just watched a Twitch stream, two gamers casting Starcraft 2 games. Each time they got a donation - the main source of income of many streamers on Twitch - they were very very nice to the person making the donation.
I sure see the need and that that is what they have to do, but the whole thing is cringeworthy. There are two scenarios here for someone being nice to other people:
- They are nice because they feel like being nice
- They get a reward - they get paid
At least to me which one feels natural and nice and which one feels like an abomination and awkward and unnatural is quite clear.
The whole concept of "reward", of getting "paid" (does not have to be money), sure has taken off. There have even be suggestions to pay kids to go to school.
But mostly, I already made my points so I refer back to my original comment in response, have we come full circle?
If you rely on outside rewards it is not the same result at all. If you are nice because you are paid instead of because you are a nice person and like the other person, or if you read because you get a reward instead of because you want to read, I claim that this is not the same outcome by a long shot.
Who knows if this will make him a stellar reader or not, I just enjoy spending that time learning with my son. Eventually I suppose he'll hate my guts and just want the passphrase to the autonomous vehicle shared service account.
I don't think one approach fits all and I'm certain teachers are sick of being told they are doing this or that wrong. My advice: leave the kids and teachers alone, they'll figure it out.
When I was a child, my parents worked on phonetics with me, and encouraged me to work with my sister on hers. She didn't perform as well academically as I did, but now that we're in our mid/late thirties, that discrepancy is nothing but a footnote.
What we learned works is:
1. Take them to the library a lot. Let them check out whatever they want. Let them check out as many books as they want (up to the limit allowed by the library - ours only allows 100 books per library card and we frequently run up against that limit).
2. Let them get their own library card as soon as the library will let them. When they are older let them ride their bikes to the library (obviously this depends on your location and situation) so they can check out things on their own.
3. Read to them from the time they are young, a lot.
4. Check out audio books from the library and let them go to bed listening to stories when they are too young to read. When they are older make sure they have a flashlight or two so they can read after lights out.
5. Greatly limit access to TV and game systems. We don't have cable or streaming subscriptions. We only use our TV for movies or TV shows on DVD from the library which they can watch on occasion when their chores and homework are done (unless it's a nice day outside then they have to be outdoors playing or reading in the hammock).
6. Fill the house with books. We have thousands of books across all age groups and topics. There are books everywhere in every room just in piles. The kids beds are covered in books.
7. Don't be a book snob. If they want to read comic books, let them read comic books. It doesn't matter what they are reading, as long as they are reading. Like any skill, the more you do it, the better you will get at it and the greater success you will have at reading more advanced material when the time comes.
8. Let them see you reading. Talk to them about what you are reading. Recommend books to them.
9. When they are older, get them jobs at the library. Libraries always have a need for people to help shelve books! One library in our area has a service night when the library closes early and volunteers help clean the library. There is pizza and soda and the kids absolutely love this night.
10. Listen to books on "tape" in the car. Get them used to both reading and hearing things being read to them.
Should it be challenging? Yea, sure - but ten short books or two long ones doesn't matter a bit. They just need to read more.
Source: I'm a k12 English teacher. The data that makes it into my hands almost always comes back to this point.
Kids learn to read best out of interest -- with reading material they are interested in and when they are ready to learn. And it makes them better.
My parents fought not to teach me to read. I didn't learn to read until I was 11. When I was 12 I went to school for the first time (unschooled) and was the top reader in my academically inclined private school.
Everyone else learned phonics and other permanent reading crutches and I read shapes because I wasn't told how or when to learn when I was little.
I still read weirdly fast compared to classically trained people who are otherwise smarter than me. What is faster I/O worth to your future?
All it involves is not ramming phonics and other Prussian nonsense down your kids throat and waiting for intrinsic motivation to kick in.
There's no need. How to teach reading has been a solved problem for at a minimum 30 years. It is not a research question. It does include phonics. The only thing with researching is why in the world apparently intelligent, socially conscious people are still litigating the losing side of a lost war after all this time.
And finally, John Taylor gatto from whom you presumably derive your distaste for the Prussian method, had the following to say:
> That was due to the Dewey revolt in the twenties, in which they threw out phonics reading and went to a word recognition as if you're reading a Chinese pictograph instead of blending sounds or different letters. I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country.
While forcing children to learn is not ideal, sometimes intrinsic motivation doesn't flourish in the individual naturally. How would you deal with a child that never wants to learn how to read?
All children will eventually come around to the idea that reading is useful. Some children are traumatized by do-gooders trying to force them to learn how to read before they're ready.
As I said in another comment here, "I think John Taylor Gatto pointed out that some children learn to read when they're 2, some when they're 8, and by the time they're 12 you can't tell the difference."
I agree there's a level of proficiency that, once reached, seems to be sufficient to tackle most reading challenges.
If you can read at 2, then you've 10 years of reading experience on the 12 year old who just learned. It doesn't necessarily make you a better reader, but you've had access to a much wider range of information and knowledge that the 12 year old couldn't access.
It seems objectively better to encourage your children to learn to read at the earliest age possible.
The political solution was called "balanced literacy," which called on teachers to use the best of both approaches. But it left it up to teachers who had been trained to dismiss phonics and brush off the science.
There's the key. Teachers get their educational ideas from their education and spend the rest of their career defending them from parents, administrators, ideological "reformers," and other random bystanders who are mostly well-meaning but who are all convinced they have a magic trick to fix everything if the teachers would just stop being dumb about how they do their job. Everybody's got an easy answer, 99% of them are just arrogant bystanders, and teachers very quickly start tuning out. And the teachers are not scientifically literate, so they don't know the difference between a scientist who does research on reading and a random yahoo.
Plus the calls for educational "reform" usually have a partisan tinge. Republicans say just drill harder and longer and keep the desks separated in 90º grids instead of circles and other commie bullshit; Democrats say give kids books that connect to their unique cultural heritage and respect their cognitive differences and they will magically know how to read. All the more reason for teachers to ignore all outside input and assume they know best.
Not to mention the educational companies that have to manufacture excitement about new teaching fads every year so they can sell new classroom materials.
With all this bullshit going on, you can't blame teachers for being closed-minded and cynical. Most of them receive an idea of what progressive, smart teaching looks like in college, when they're still optimistic and open-minded, and cling to it for the next forty years. So I think this guy will be pleased by the response of teachers who are currently in college. They'll take in the current consensus and run with it.
Then you just read with them over and over and over. Every night you read with them, and then you provide them with access to books. Take them to the library check out as many books as they want and then you sit and read with them every single night. That is how you teach kids to read.
I presume that at some point in the past most kids could read at grade level, because presumably when it was initially decided what grade level was it was based on how kids actually performed at the time.
So how was reading taught then? They certainly did not know today's latest research on language and speech development in a child's brain.
Did they just stumble into the right approach, and so a reading program based on the latest research would end up being similar to how reading was taught in, say, the 1920s?
Or was the 1920s (or whenever kids were at grade level) approach also flawed, and it is just that today's approach is even more flawed, and so if we based reading programs on the latest research most kids would end up above grade level?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Readability_test links various measures.
I'd be curious to go back and see what and how much my grandfather read in ~1910, after he stopped school in the 8th grade.
Edit: it appears I have misquoted it myself, or I can't find the reference. It's probably the Shakespeare thing though.
One of the motivations we have used is comic books. (Yes, that death of classic reading!) Both of our kids are My Little Pony fans, so we read a lot of those comic books for story time and gave them the books as they were learning to read. Wanting to read is a requirement for learning to read.
The hard part is a test that actually measures something like reading comprehension rather than preparation for the particular test.