Volume 8 #3 March
Abraham Lincoln was a very smart man. He was able to teach himself to read because he had already memorized great chunks of the Bible, including, according to some historians, virtually the whole New Testament.
My little cousin, Amy, was a very smart 4 year old. She taught herself to read because she had memorized all her favorite stories. What these two had in common was that when they wanted to learn to read, they already knew the words by heart. It hit Amy one day that when those little black squiggles were clumped together, that apparently was a word. We were gathered in her living room one Sunday morning having coffee when she came bouncing in and announced to her mother that she could read!
“That’s nice, dear,” said her mother, taking a sip. “How did you do it?”
“I just looked at the words, but I already knew them,” she said. “So now I can read ‘em.” And off she went to her room, leaving some rather dazed relatives.
So, really, anybody can teach himself to read if he just works at it. Right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The only reason Abe and Amy succeeded is because they already had the answers. They already knew what the words said. I must add here, that Amy’s mom quickly taught the child some basic phonics so she would realize that those little individual squiggles had their own noises and could be mixed and matched to make words. And thus was born another bookworm.
There is a point to this story. I get e-mails regularly from distraught adults who can’t read and want to know whether the RfS program will enable them to teach themselves. The answer is NO. Here’s why. Let’s say you are reading down a column of words. How do you know whether you are pronouncing them correctly or not? You don’t . And if you aren’t reading them correctly, how do you know what is wrong and what to do about it? You don’t. Trial and error won’t work in this situation. You must have a teacher.
But it gets worse. Let’s say you are a parent who was always in the third reading group (the chipmunks). You never heard of dyslexia in those days. Now you have a kid who is in trouble with reading and has even been held back a year because “he wasn’t mature enough for the next grade.” He is miserable, and you will do anything you possibly can to keep him from going through what you did. So you e-mail me to ask whether you can use RfS to fix up your kid.
It always breaks my heart to say so, but the answer is still NO, and for the same reasons. Anyone who teaches must know more about the subject than the pupil. So the hapless parent is stuck with three equally unpalatable alternatives: 1, Get a tutor. (Forget it, can’t afford four private lessons a week), 2. Find a nice college coed who will be glad to make a little extra money after classes. (Forget it. You don’t live near a college or university.) 3. Get Grandma to do it. (Forget it. You just moved and haven’t a relative within 100 miles.)
Of course, the answer is that THE SCHOOL SHOULD DO IT. Well, good luck with that one. In all my years of teaching, in spite of a zillion success stories from other tutors and, indeed, other countries, I have only encountered two schools who were willing to try something new. Never mind the scientific research. Never mind the results from their own SPED programs which have never yet gotten a dyslectic student even up to, never mind beyond grade level. So what do you do? I dunno. If you can’t get your school system to read the website, especially “The Jigsaw Puzzle” you are stuck. Get a lawyer and threaten to sue. That does work sometimes.