mixedmath a year ago

I'm disappointed that nowhere in this interview is there any actual indication of what is done badly, or what teachers should do to improve how kids are taught to read. I get that there is apparently a gap between how kids are taught to read and the science behind how kids should be taught read.

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.

  • dubya a year ago

    What is actually done is that teachers have children do tons of worksheets focusing on small aspects of reading. This allows teachers to check the boxes showing that they've covered the relevant standards, because this is what's supposedly covered on standardized tests. The standards are difficult to turn into lesson plans (even if that was a good idea), so often they use the clip-art encrusted crap available on the web (e.g. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Grade-Level/First...)

    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/

    • tootie a year ago

      My kids are in school doing common core and that's not what it's like at all. They do worksheets around learning specific small-bore topics, but otherwise do a ton of book reading and long-form writing assignments. Unless you have a cite, I don't think you're representing what the people in this article are talking about.

      • dubya a year ago

        I wasn't addressing the article, just the GP. My experience was with my daughter's school. She was in 1st grade five years ago, but through 4th grade she was still bringing home piles of worksheets that had been done in class, and some more for homework(!). Talking with other parents at other schools at the time, they had similar experiences. I'd be thrilled if five years has made a huge difference, but I'm not optimistic.

        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.

      • r00fus a year ago

        More anecdata: my younger two are bilingual and didn't know how to read more than really basic sight words before starting K (common core class). They are now highly proficient at reading (english), which (they are decent learners and have no challenges) I reason are due to two things: 1) An interest in reading which is fostered by the class atmosphere - they have "choice" time and some of that can be reading. 2) They have an expectation in class to spend a lot of time reading or being read-to.

        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.

    • dragonwriter a year ago

      > The standards are difficult to turn into lesson plans

      That people can say that with a straight face indicated to me that we have a real problem in teacher education [0]. 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.

      [0] 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.

      • ktsmith a year ago

        It's not that hard to develop lessons that meet the standards. It is time consuming and typically not paid for, teachers are expected to do it on their own time.

        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.

      • dubya a year ago

        > That people can say that with a straight face indicated to me that we have a real problem in teacher education [0]. 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.

        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.

    • Kluny a year ago

      Oh wow, that sounds suicidally boring. Way to kill the joy, eh.

      • tropo a year ago

        It's mandatory to be boring. Anything else is offensive.

        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.

        • Kluny a year ago

          What about that Captain Underpants crap? I hated it when I was a kid but it seemed pretty good to the other kids and kind of acceptable to the adults.

          • ktsmith a year ago

            Not sure where the other poster lives but the entire Captain Underpants series is in our son's school library. That's where he read the first one and we purchased the rest for him as he's a voracious reader. They aren't the best books but there's a big benefit in the kids having something that they are interested in reading and will read without being pushed.

          • tropo a year ago

            That often gets banned for crudeness, but otherwise yes. It has the right idea.

            I object to it for a completely different reason: bad spelling and grammar. I think a kid's book should set a perfect example.

    • mkempe a year ago

      Some teachers don't have to do that.

      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.

      • GrinningFool a year ago

        Common core standards for English and math were released 2012 with adoption spread out across years for many states. Development of the standards started in 2009. Gate's youngest child would have been starting school ~2008.

  • jjuel a year ago

    It was very much a nothingburger. I am disappointed I read the whole article.

  • zellyn a year ago

    The interview is clearly about a book; I assume they focused on the story around the writing of the book, rather than recapitulating the contents of the book. If you want to know what is done badly, and how to improve, I imagine the best thing would be to read the book.

    • ahdroit a year ago

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/books/language-at-the-spe... quote: "Most of all, as he, teachers and other reading-instruction stakeholders have already joined forces to do in the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, he pleads with those who teach written communication and those who research it to start, at last, communicating with one another."

    • woodandsteel a year ago

      I have read many hundreds of interviews with non-fiction book authors, and they almost always include some of the specific ideas of the book. Indeed, usually that is most of what the interview is about.

  • skywhopper a year ago

    Yeah, agreed, there's really no substance to the interview that I can grab a hold of. The main thing that I would be wary of is the idea that there is a single approach or method that will work for every child.

    "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.

    • Confiks a year ago

      If some rich and complex learning material doesn't immediately 'click', that doesn't mean it is ineffective. You might just be laying the groundwork to understanding those complex ideas later, for example when they are connected to other ideas or when the motivation to learn surfaces. Learning is sometimes too focused on 'understanding' and immediate results, while often very puzzled faces and proclamations of non-understanding are the best indication that real learning is going on.

    • kokey a year ago

      My son is hyperlexic (and on the autistic spectrum) and he basically taught himself to read phonetically when he was 3 by watching youtube videos of phonics. I was not taught reading at a young age, it was considered bad to teach kids early where I grew up, but when I started school at 6 and we did the phonics I was almost immediately able to read well beyond my age. Hyperlexia is a bit like the opposite of dyslexia and I think it's is a bit of a spectrum where most people find themselves closer to the center. My son really struggled with receptive language, or language in general. Hyperlexic kids often only start to get the hang of receptive language (as in understand spoken language) and use language for communication (aka 'start talking') between the age of 4.5 to 5.5, so I suspect kids who are less on the hyperlexic side (aka most kids, and also 'early talkers') probably only start to get into the groove of reading after that age. Hyperlexia and dyslexia is just symptoms of a component of our brains that processes our environment and I think there's huge variation in humans when it comes to this and it's kind of independent from our intelligence (though it could affect our test scores, for sure)

    • teslabox a year ago

      > 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 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.

      • sp332 a year ago

        The amount of text that a person has read improves their reading speed. So someone who has a big head start like that is going to have an advantage for more than a few years. It's true that eventually other factors might average them out, but why would you want to be illiterate for years and then make everything else you're trying to learn more difficult for years more? It's much less stressful to learn to read early.

        • jackhack a year ago

          You're missing the point.

          "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.

          • sp332 a year ago

            Yeah, I did miss the point. No one should be called stupid while they're trying to learn. But we should provide a lot of encouragement and hand-holding to kids to get them reading as soon as they can.

            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.

  • sarahconstantin a year ago

    I'm also confused here. Most definitions of "phonics" I've seen are just "teach kids how to connect written letters with speech sounds." What on earth would non-phonics reading instruction look like?

    • rogerthis a year ago

      The one method that become very popular in Brazil since the 80s is the "whole word" method. The child is supposed to memorize the form of the word instead of decoding it. No need to say that's not efficient (as the latin letters allow the sound/sign conversions), it overloads memory, and in the end, the child takes longer to learn. The standardized tests in Brazil show that.

      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.

      • mkempe a year ago

        The "Look Say" method you describe (vs the classic "Phonics" method) was also widely deployed in the USA, to the detriment of many children's reading and writing skills.

        • tropo a year ago

          I object to both.

          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: https://www.learnenglish.de/pronunciation/pronunciationpoem....

          • camelite a year ago

            One part of the solution is to introduce exceptions early. The whole thing is a more complicated business than a one-to-one sound-letter correspondence. But it is a problem that has been solved for a long time now[1]. Cognitive science is not required. The only mystery is how this is not more widely known.

            [1] teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons, and associated school curricula from the same author

asimeqi a year ago

I think this is the thread where I should recommend the best book to teach reading: Let's Read, a Linguistic Approach http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Read-A-Linguistic-Approach/dp/081...

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: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4665466

  • book_mentioned a year ago

    I would appreciate links to similarly helpful tools for early childhood education for any subject (or language).

    "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" has been recommended ancedata-ly to me.

    • dgritsko a year ago

      I've also anecdotally heard good things regarding "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" -- does anyone have direct experience with both that book and "Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach" (and if so, a recommendation for one over the other)?

      • arthurjj a year ago

        I'm currently using "Teach your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons." with my 3 year old. He hasn't had trouble with the reading, but a few of the exercises were too long for him.

        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)

        • steverb a year ago

          I concur. We used that book to teach three of our children to read at ages 3 to 4 and it is mind numbing. It worked for our kids though. One of them was reading "The Hobbit" when she was 5 years old and except for being a professional musician she's more or less a normal young adult now.

        • logfromblammo a year ago

          I used it on two kids. They now both score on standardized tests as reading far in advance of their grade level. This leads to difficulties wherein much of the material available at their level of technical proficiency does not match with either their maturity levels or with their specific interests.

          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.

          • rajatrocks a year ago

            I had the same exact experience with 2 of my sons. Will start the third (5) on it (Teach Your Child to Read...) this summer.

  • eppp a year ago

    I also used this book with both my sons. It worked amazingly. The oldest one is one of the best readers in the state if the assessment is to be believed. I suspect a lot of the value is the time with the parent actually doing the work of teaching. But the book itself is arranged in such a way that the reading patterns are highlighted and reinforced.

  • jmulho a year ago

    When our first son was three years old we would stick his high chair in front of the TV at lunch time, give him food, and turn on a Leap Frog phonics DVD. We had three: 1) Letter Factory, 2) Talking Words Factory, and 3) Talking Words Factory II. Our son absolutely loved these and wanted to watch them over and over again every day. Within about four months he started spontaneously reading things like the sign in a business window that says "open". Within a year or so he could read whole children's books. I couldn't believe it. With our next son, we waited patiently until he was three and tried it again: same result. The only other thing we did (which took much more effort) was read them bedtime stories every night before bed. With that, we had two boys reading before they started school. I can't recommend these DVDs enough.

    • jbattle a year ago

      Honestly I bet it doesn't matter what products or setup you use - sounds like you as parents made words and reading a ever-present part of the environment. I'm 98% sure that general atmosphere is important and has big results, regardless of the fine specifics of technique & etc. But that's just my intuition

  • tnorthcutt a year ago

    I also got the recommendation for that book from HN; specifically from a user who maintains this site: http://learninfreedom.org/readbook.html

    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.

  • vog a year ago

    Is there a similar book for French or German?

  • alberto_ol a year ago

    Isn't it too early Oliver Twist at 9? I read it in my 40s and found it quite frightening

    • flyingfences a year ago

      I was probably exposed to (mostly in film, not reading) Dickens, including Twist, at around that age. When kids are young enough, they aren't so frightened by that sort of thing because they simply don't get it. They know the words that are being used, but they don't really understand the real-world situations and insinuations that the words convey.

ThomPete a year ago

"The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child's brain."

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.

  • jojoo a year ago

    > The trick (as with almost any other field)? > Practice, practice, practice. That's it. There is no magic sauce there.

    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.

    • ThomPete a year ago

      For most children it's practice. A few are so intelligent that they teach themselves and a few are left behind.

      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.

  • walshemj a year ago

    I would bet that if looked the number of books in the kids household you would see a strong correlation.

    • ThomPete a year ago

      Maybe, I read a lot of books and used to have a lot of books around but these days we mostly use kindle.

  • watwut a year ago

    We found multiple tricks, not obvious to us immediately, that made learning to read easier. We found them through psychologists and teachers we know. And elementary school also gave us set of instructions meant to avoid common problems.

    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.

    • ThomPete a year ago

      But hardly the reason why only 1/3 reads at grade level (the article also say it's not the only reason)

      • watwut a year ago

        What do you mean?

  • golanggeek a year ago

    Could you let me know the kids app that you are speaking about.

    • bobx11 a year ago

      Kindle free time is what we use on our kids. It's built into the Kindle and you can upgrade it to a 3$ per month Kindle unlimited for kids books.

  • IIIIIIIIIIIIIII a year ago

    > 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.

    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.

    • watwut a year ago

      He is talking about five years old. Kids who learn to read, read slowly at first. Very very slowly and with a lot of effort. And by the time they finished long sentence, they have no idea how that sentence started. This period is notfun, because they cant do it yet. This period also takes a lot of time, it is long enough with 6-7 years old and even longer with five years old.

      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.

      • walshemj a year ago

        That's not how I experienced it I remember reading suddenly clicking I think in my first year as I can remember the Victorian era school room in my villages primary.

        Oddly enough I am a dyslexic but had zero problems with reading- writing, spelling and grammar not so much - chiz

      • IIIIIIIIIIIIIII a year ago

        I get that - I too was a five year old at some point :-) Not sure I started actually reading at five though, I think those were books heavy on images with little text, if any.

        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.

    • wccrawford a year ago

      I am also a life-long avid reader. I didn't really understand what makes learning to read so hard.

      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.

      • ThomPete a year ago

        Kids don't learn if they start early enough they absorb (just like with your mother language) the problem is that the later we start the harder it becomes.

      • IIIIIIIIIIIIIII a year ago

        Does it matter? Even if I don't remember the feeling, it must have been as hard for me as for everybody else. So with that variable being about equal we are back to the discussion. Why would some people need "tricks" and/or pressure when others do it all on their own?

        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).

        • wccrawford a year ago

          We don't need to do more than put a book in front of anyone for them to learn things. But it's hardly the best way to do it.

          If gamification helps a kid learn to read faster and happier, why not do it?

          • IIIIIIIIIIIIIII a year ago

            > 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.

antirez a year ago

I want to share the experience I had with my daughter Greta (now 5 yo). She learned to write and read independently. At 3 she was already able to write simple words (not memorized, you cold say "write <any-4-or-5-letters-word>"), and at this point at 5 she can fluently write. All this without spending more than, maybe a total of a few days once she were already capable of basic reading/writing. The question is, how she figured out how to write and read independently? I'm not sure, but my wife and I read she books since she was 1 month old, every night before bed time, and often she wanted to look at the books, so I guess she became accustomed to the shape of letters. Later she played a lot in one of these rubber carpets where there are the shapes of the letters (https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/PCwAAOSwM5JZma4a/s-l500.jpg), and my guess is that this also helped. At some point when she was like, 2, she became obsessed with "A". This is letter "A" she could say during a few weeks. Later she started to compose the "A" with three sticks, and so forth. Basically with this process she learned all the letters and the sound. Btw what I was able to observe was: 1) It is a lot of work for kids to learn to write and read. Greta succeeded in doing so only because without we even noticing much, he basically spent a lot of time thinking about letters, drawing them, reading them. 2) When we tried to teach her better, like sitting together, we almost stopped this process... because it started to be annoying, so we avoided it if not for 10 minutes every month to say like, how groups of letters sounded. 3) I believe that one of the key point was reading a lot of books, because her language skills where very impressive already at 1.5 yo or alike, and I believe this is potentially the result of reading books.

  • balls187 a year ago

    My son, not quite aged 2, exhibits similar traits. We've been reading to him since he was in the womb, and every chance we'd get we'd talk about letters. We have nearly a dozen alphabet related "toys", and lately I've been using alphabet magnet to spell out words, sounding out the letters, and putting them together.

    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.

  • zwieback a year ago

    Do you have more than one kid? One of mine learned reading super easily, the other struggled. Both of them do very well in high school now.

    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.

    • antirez a year ago

      Yep, I've a son which is 17, similar experience. However the fact he was so gifted in almost everything made him extremely lazy and non interested in anything as a teenager... I hope this will change.

    • balls187 a year ago

      Which child performs better, the first born or second?

      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.

      • zwieback a year ago

        First one had a harder time reading. Once she discovered the "Warriors" series there was no stopping her, though.

  • HorizonXP a year ago

    antirez, I'm curious, did you decide to teach English instead of Italian, or in addition to it? I'm wondering how this book helps or hinders your children's progress in other languages. There is the obvious advantage that they share the same written alphabet.

    • antirez a year ago

      My son learned English as a teenager, instead my daughter has an english mother tongue teachers at his school, mixed with regular teachers, so she have definitely a very good pronounce, but she is not able yet to talk, just knows certain words, a few sentences and so forth. I've the feeling that all the books we read she in Italian have only a marginal advantage on her english skills...

sovok_x a year ago

Is it advertisement for the book? The article doesn't really tell what teachers need to do better exactly.

  • TulliusCicero a year ago

    Yeah, as a parent of a six year old I was hoping to see some tips or advice in the article. Maybe I can get a summary of the book at Amazon or something.

irrational a year ago

I have seven kids, and they are all voracious readers. One of the kids read all of the Harry Potter books when he was 8 years old. I honestly didn't think he could comprehend what he was reading (i.e., I thought the books would be beyond his reading comprehension level), but when we asked him questions about the books he always knew the answers.

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.

germinalphrase a year ago

Once you get past phonetics, symbol/sound relationships - the only metric that really matters for basic literacy is # of words read.

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.

sbinthree a year ago

It is amazing how irrational even smart people act about learning to read. Maybe specifically smart people. Please, read the current research.

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.

  • camelite a year ago

    > Please, read the current research.

    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.

  • cliffy a year ago

    Are you saying the current research argues against teaching children the ability to read at a young age?

    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?

    • teslabox a year ago

      > 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."

      • cliffy a year ago

        There are adults who are illiterate and still resist the idea that they would be better off if they learned how to read.

        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.

    • bcoates a year ago

      Early child education evidence is a whole complicated thing in itself, but programs shifting first reading instruction younger do not show benefits at older age, and school systems that put the expected literacy age much later than most Americans would expect don't underperform.

dkarl a year ago

What I point out in the book is that in order to grasp the research, [teachers] need basic scientific literacy to be able to understand it....

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.

BikinHowd a year ago

The main gem of wisdom that I took away is that we need an army of reading tutors at a very young age, like K-3. The Reading Partners group that I belong to in Dallas, TX is exactly the prescription that the doctor ordered. We allow the children we tutor to pick a book to read to them, we do some phonics teaching as to pronunciation, word meanings, and then have the student read to us. 45 minutes, usually twice a week. The only thing I'd change, if we had enough tutors, would be to make this a DAILY one-on-one until we got the child up to proficient. Nonetheless, if you want to help out in a big little way, check out Reading Partners and help a child get that reading edge... incidentally, many third world countries have already realized that we need an army of tutors to make sure no kiddos are left behind.

smoot_hawley a year ago

For anyone interested in this topic, there's an education documentary covering three teachers who resort to leveraging brain science so as to break through the boredom and disinterest of their students: a great exploration of the personal journeys that led three teachers to use a neuroscience-based teaching model, and showing that model in action within their locales and student age brackets (Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland; a high school in upstate New York, and a community college in Western Pennsylvania). What really struck me in this documentary was the intimacy with which some students and teachers respond to the model- and it's a very human showing of the personal factors that drive education - both from a teacher and a student standpoint. Told more from the human-experience standpoint, it also covers practical aspects of using brain-based teaching.. worth a look for professional development credits. http://www.greymattersdocumentary.com/

dkhenry a year ago

The best way to teach kids to read is to have their parents read to them, and sit with them individually and work with them on sounding out words.

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.

tzs a year ago

> Mark Seidenberg is not the first researcher to reach the stunning conclusion that only a third of the nation's schoolchildren read at grade level. The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child's brain.

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?

  • maxerickson a year ago

    The scales are made up. Many of them are formulaic, counting sentence length or syllables or whatever and digesting that into a number.

    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.

    • sp332 a year ago

      When my grandpa got the news that he was going to ship out to the Pacific in WWII, the CO said to the men: "Gentlemen, there is a time and a tide." None of them had more than a sixth-grade education and they all knew what poem he was referencing.

      Edit: it appears I have misquoted it myself, or I can't find the reference. It's probably the Shakespeare thing though.

wilwade a year ago

(I taught my daughter to read, my wife currently working on our son, both with a phonics based curriculum, but more in a Vygotsky style)

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.

crsv a year ago

Two Paragraphs in the interview are actually talking about the topic area / science, the rest is devoted to a political discussion and isn't terribly helpful / insightful. I was pretty disappointed in what I thought would be a more meaningful piece from a relatively reputable news source.

dbatten a year ago

Does anybody have any insight into the "reading wars," why phonics has fallen out of favor, and why it might still be important in certain contexts? All of this intrigued me in the interview and I was very disappointed that none of it was explained.

marze a year ago

Easy fix: cash bonus to teachers based on average year-end score of their student’s reading comprehension.

  • maxerickson a year ago

    That does usually prove to be a terrific way to improve scores.

    The hard part is a test that actually measures something like reading comprehension rather than preparation for the particular test.