Can You Read This?

Extra Extra








Can you read this? Thank a teacher!

Over the past year, I have witnessed a miracle. My six-year-old son has learned to read.  He has gone from haltingly making his way through the lowest leveled readers, to having hundreds of sight words and reading with excitement and passion.  He loves to read.

His life has changed for the better – not just this year, but forever.

Kids don’t just learn to read on their own. They must be taught by specially trained teachers committed to ongoing professional learning.

My son has a teacher like that, but you won’t read a story about her in the newspaper. That’s because, while she is excellent, she is not unique.

Dozens of children at my son’s school learned to read this year. Hundreds of teachers taught thousands of kids across the Region to read this year.  Everyone reading this letter learned to read from a teacher. But we take them for granted.

Teachers doing their job well, year after year, are the norm. They’re not “news.”  The teacher who taught my son to read, and the thousands of other teachers like her in this Region, will continue to do amazing work that goes unnoticed and underappreciated.  That’s a tragedy!

Peter Stuart


There are many ways to learn reading

As with the similar bumper stickers, when I read that headline, I laughed.

I’m glad that letter writer Peter Stuart found a dedicated teacher who taught his son to read. There are many more like her out there.  I had a couple who taught and inspired me.

I have to take extreme exception, though, with his blanket claim that kids don’t just learn to read, and need to be taught by specially trained teachers.

For centuries, people learned to read from others who were not even teachers. Later they learned from teachers who were barely trained, much less specially.

Back before the distraction of television, my mother read to me constantly, any decent book which came to hand, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, and T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which went on to become the hit musical, Cats.

She did not teach me to read.  She did not point, and say, “This is A.  This is B.  This word is Cat.  This word is Dog.”  She just read to me.

One month before my fifth birthday, when she was sick in bed, I picked up a copy of Maclean’s magazine and read to her. I just learned to read!  I’ve never met another who made the same claim, but a few must exist.

Grumpy, Braggart, Old Archon


Commitment Needed

I agree with letter writer, Archon, that some of us either seem to pick up reading on our own, or are taught quite well by “unqualified” teachers.

I taught myself to read around the age of four, mainly by being exposed to books, and the magnetic letters on the fridge.

My mother wasn’t surprised: she also read before starting school, and so did her mother.

As a home educator for almost two decades, I have seen many parents teach reading (and math, and much more) to their own children. Some children learned easily; some had challenges; some learned at three or four; some at the “normal” age; some not till much later.

Some used phonics and basal readers; some used computer software, and some used more informal methods.

Some families required extra help to deal with specific learning issues, but most of them managed extremely well.

Teaching reading does take commitment, patience and imagination! But it doesn’t require a teaching degree.

Anne White


As you can see, I’ve been at it again. I respect and admire teachers, but, like anything else, I’m not impressed with the, “Let someone else take care of it.” mindset which is all too prevalent.  Know how to take care of yourself, and your children.

Anybody else want to brag? How young did you learn to read?  Who “taught” you, using what?

18 thoughts on “Can You Read This?

  1. At the age I learned to read, and I remember it well, I needed just a couple of pointers to make use of the alphabet I had learned by rote memory. As soon as it made sense I was off and running. I remember struggling to make my fingers cause the pencil to make legible marks.* More than learning to read I remember, in 8th grade, an English teacher who was anal about grammar. That gave me what is now an intuitive understanding if a sentence is bad or not.

    *In first grade my teacher’s boyfriend/husband supplied some very colorful wires for us to make jewelry and such one week. I later learned that this was telecommunications wire and have used it many times since. I actually remember the colors and how the sheathing of the wire was arranged. I also know that at that age I saw no real value to writing never mind reading. It was not until I had figured reading out that it made sense. It felt like a huge hurdle that I had overcome when I could read stuff on random pieces of paper. My world opened up. It was bigger than I had known or thought. I even remember being proud that I could read those simple readers with ‘See Spot run.’ sentences. I had a determination that I would master these terribly difficult books and move on to rule the world. Such are the thoughts of a six year old.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All 3 of my girls were able to read (at a child’s level, of course) before starting kindergarten. Of course, we always played alphabet games with them and read bedtime stories to them, so it was a natural progression. We just did it because it was fun.


    • Archon's Den says:

      The recurrent theme seems to be people – parents, usually – who read to young children, and made the experience exciting and enjoyable, rather than a chore to be grudgingly accomplished. With today’s busy, two-income families, it happens less and less. Congratulations on your dedication. I’m sure the results seem worth the time and patience. 😀


  3. Dan Antion says:

    Joining the Grumpy Archon on this one. Our daughter learned to read before she started Kindergarten by being read to. I would frequently bring her new books, and my wife and I would read to her. One day, I brought a new story book home, but before we could read it to her, she started reading it to us.

    She had good teachers, and surely they advanced her vocabulary and understanding of grammar and literary devices and all that stuff. But, she did learn to read by being read to and reading along.


    • Archon's Den says:

      And another early-reading child of reading parents! You give so much more to a child than just the ability to read. You give them the universe. And what you get back ain’t so bad, either! 😆


  4. Sightsnbytes says:

    The stupid school system that my kid is growing up in is not encouraging reading at all. Word formation is not part of the curriculum, and neither is spelling. Last year I was told by his teacher that despite the fact that the entire class is going on to the seventh grade, the majority of the students are still reading at a grade 4 level. Something wrong with a statement like that!


    • Archon's Den says:

      What’s wrong – is that they probably blame the parents, and lack of support, rather than the feel-good basket-weaving courses. 😦

      I/we read to both of our kids. (And, coincidentally, they both have blogsites.) When the son entered Grade One, they did the how-well-can-you-read test, to assess him. He read better than most Grade 8s. 😯


  5. Jim Wheeler says:

    Like some other commenters here, I learned to read before I went to school. My advantage was that my mother taught a one-room school for some 8 years before I was born. I was familiar with Dick, Jane and Spot. That initial advantage stayed with me throughout my schooling, which leads me to contemplate the learning process from an elderly perspective. I think it’s way over organized and over measured, and I wish that even grades could be eliminated. There are many varieties of intellectual achievement and to grade them slights some over others. Sightsnbytes comment is pertinent. I think the best teachers motivate by unleashing the joy of learning.


    • Archon's Den says:

      It has to be fun, or it doesn’t get done. So, you sneaked in under the tent flap to grasp success. We all have our ways.

      I feel you’re right about much education being too restrictive and proscriptive. There still needs to be some testing and grading. Well controlled, open learning can work. When I entered the Adult Education here, years ago, there were levels. When you accomplished one strata, you moved up to the next, until you were done. Some progressed quickly, others not, but pretty much all eventually triumphed, no shame. 🙂


  6. garden2day says:

    I didn’t go to kindergarten–they didn’t exist back before dinosaurs roamed the earth 😉 . But seriously I was encouraged by my family to make word books where you take pictures from magazines and paste them in spiral notebooks. I must have been about three years I guess. I remember learning phonetics in first grade but I do not remember much else until the following year when I was reading to my dad every night at a fifth grade level. Who knows what happened. Maybe it’s because of my brain thing–I don’t know but I didn’t like to read much after that. I settled for playing with numbers instead 😀 (math).

    I think it takes a combination and then one day it just happens. Everything comes together. I read to my children early on just like my mom did for me and the kids made word books too. They were reading a bit before kindergarten. I’m sometimes amazed that any of us can learn to read. Learning is a process that I think we take for granted sometimes. We can’t just give a kid a book and expect him to understand. It needs to start early on. Just my observations.


    • Archon's Den says:

      I didn’t even have a school with a Kindergarten till I was already in 4th Grade. You and I do seem much of an age, and maybe small-town heritage.

      You’re right about needing to start early, whether with reading or anything else. Too-busy, or non-reading parents do their children no favors.

      You and I are on opposite sides of the usual norm.. Most males are supposed to be better at math than reading. I’m competent in math, but read early and well. You say you took to math, and seem to do pretty well with the reading/writing thing. The local engineering-intense University tries to attract more females, but often they see numbers as a chore.

      I read an author who writes about the English language, who said that his 8-year-old daughter asked him a really philosophical question. “Dad, how do we know, all the things we know?”

      Liked by 1 person

      • garden2day says:

        LOL… Hehe.. I was the only child and didn’t see where anything was a boys or girls only scenario. I loved math at an early age–who knew I would major in it but my dad tried to foster that in me as well as science and didn’t believe girls should be told they can’t do something. He used to brag about his woodsplitter…not the mechanical ones…his daughter…me with a wedge, mallet, and ax. I learned how to roof a house before 16 and build things all along the way. The door was open as it should be. He died before I graduated college. Girls can do whatever they set their mind to. 🙂 Oh, dear. I sound like a feminist. 😀


  7. Daniel Digby says:

    You beat me to it, but I was going to write a post about education in general. Reading is a particularly sore point for me. In first grade (kindergarten was a total waste), we used the Dick and Jane series, but we called it the Little Red Reader, the Little Blue Reader, and the Little Green Reader because of the color of the cover.

    The first couple weeks I was really excited about reading because I thought there was a system to determining the meanings of words. Our teacher drew pupils in the “o’s” of ‘look’ and the “e’s” ‘see’, so I expected that there were neat gimmicks to figure out any word. After I realized that the whole thing was rote memorization, I lost interest and made very little progress. By second grade, I discovered a book, “The Story of Steam” that detailed how steam engines worked. Again it kindled an excitement to learn how to read, and by then, my teacher had recruited my mother to help me learn to read. My mother kept telling me to “sound out” the word, which made absolutely no sense.

    Finally when I was eight and half-way through third grade, my mother demanded a conference with my teacher and wanted to know why they seemed unconcerned that I couldn’t “sound out” words. She was shocked to learned that phonics forever hampers the ability to read because “educational science” had proven that this leads to “subvocalization” which can only be caused by phonics (somehow reading out loud doesn’t cause this), and the student’s ability to read would be permanently retarded. My mother just about hit the ceiling and demanded to get a phonics workbook.

    It turns out the teacher was right. In the remainder of that year, I went from not being able to read at all at age 8 to reading at the early sixth grade level. Yep, I felt retarded.

    This travesty was still being taught in education departments in at least Florida, Tennessee, and Oklahoma through at least the time I finished graduate school. Education departments never should have had their names changed from “Normal School”. I’m curious how much of this crap was being blamed on dyslexia.

    Although I read bedtime stories for all of my kids, they weren’t really interested in reading for themselves until they started school, by which time phonics was used in all the schools they attended. Of course, it left them retarded for the rest of their lives.


  8. benzeknees says:

    I learned to read at school because neither of my parents are at all interested in reading. My mother may have read to me when I was very little (under 2) but I doubt it. I always had books around me though. Remember Little Golden books?
    When I entered Grade 1 at 5 years of age (low enrollment that year so I moved into Grade 1 instead of Kindergarten) my father was alarmed I was not being taught Phonics. Even though he only had a Grade 4 education himself, he had learned Phonics & so made me study Phonics every day after school. I hated it because I wanted to go outside & play – but I have always been the best speller because of it!


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