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I'd say the pathway to fluent reading is:

1. no concept of reading, context is not helpful

2. start to read, use context to cover any weaknesses and gaps

3. become fluent reader, no longer need context to cover weaknesses and gaps.

As an experienced educator, I would say there is no process of learning (anything) that doesn't follow this path, whether using context is formally taught or not.

It's an important part of teaching to understand where weaknesses are being papered over and support fixing that. It may be that one teaching method or another makes certain weaknesses easier to identify or fix, but in the end, enough dedicated practice is going to sort out these weaknesses either way.

The article presents this as though context is bad - but you need context to bridge from the start to the end of the process.

The article repeatedly says "poor reader" when it is really talking about a stage of learning to read (the anecdotes describe people stuck on this stage).

In my opinion: This is a really dangerous way of representing the problem of educating people, which denies agency to learners.




> 1. no concept of reading, context is not helpful

> 2. start to read, use context to cover any weaknesses and gaps

> 3. become fluent reader, no longer need context to cover weaknesses and gaps.

That's completely not how you learn to read.

Step 2. is start to learn what sounds to make when you are seeing given combination of letters. And then learn gradually how to make the sounds faster and for longer sequences of letters. Until you reach step 3 where you can blurt a word or even few at a time as one or few sounds at good pace.

At no point the context comes into play. It usually is even harmful because it makes you make stuff up instead of reading. Often wrong, occasionally correct which seems even more harmful.

Context is important only after you read completely fluently and begin to read new domain of knowledg with completely unknow vocabulary. Then you can get some words meaning from context. Although you should always check if you guessed correctly.

If you would like to know more about how most people in the world learn to read please find out how kids learn to read in other languages than english. English is a bit quirky but in no way unique. What's unique is english approach to reading teaching. I don't think anywhere else kids are encouraged to make stuff up as they go.


I... don't agree.

Context is noticeably awkward when you get it wrong, and I'd say the article appears to have identified this as a problem and presents it as "this is a problem therefore it must be fixed". But, most of the time, there is not that awkwardness: context is extremely helpful to learners - of any subject.

It also appears that you are describing how to learn to read in an alphabetic system - so it's not immediately obvious that what you have said could apply to "most people in the world".


Context is noticeably awkward when a reader already knows how to read. Take the example in the article.

> But Rodney said: "My dog likes to lick his bone."

The context makes perfect sense and matches the picture. The issue is 'Rodney' didn't actually read half the words.


I did read the article and was referring to exactly that. This happened once to this child and so I'd call it cherry-picking. It's not as easy to observe when context is helpful as when it fails.

As an adult, I probably only read about half the words in a useful e-mail. (hopefully with more skill than a child reading a picture book). I wouldn't call that an issue.


During my learning one could often hear teacher saying "Oi! Read! Don't make stuff up!"

I think kids should be rather discouraged than encouraged to rely on context.


This article is discussing the transition from #1 to #2 in your pathway. It cites multiple studies showing that the method being criticized is not effective.


does the teaching method provide a way to get beyond that stage? while the anecdotes are about people stuck in this stage, the article strongly implies that the teaching method stops at that stage and does not help readers to get beyond it. in other words, it suggests that according to this teaching method this stage defines a good reader.




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