Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Innovative Educator Dispels Popular Myths about Learning to Read and Write

"The little learning machines who learn to walk by walking and talk by talking also learn to read by reading and write by writing." Linda Dobson

You know that license plate, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”? What if the truth was you didn’t need a teacher to learn to read or write? What if in fact you might be able to read and write more effectively without one? There are many young people who are doing just that...learning to read and write without the benefit of schools or teachers.  

Don’t believe it or want to know more? 
Read on.

"Schools place emphasis on [early] reading not because it's the best way to learn but because it's the most efficient way to run assembly line learning."  —Joyce Fetteroll
Despite what many of us have been schooled to believe, in many cases learning is a result of the activity of learners; it is not necessarily a result of teaching. When it comes to reading and writing, it will come as naturally as learning to walk and talk provided that it is not forced and the child is given a supportive environment that includes positive experiences with print.  What’s more, for many young people, forcing them to learn to read before they are ready is detrimental to their future ability to read well. In other words, grouping students by date of birth and putting them on the reading assembly line, may very well be the reason some students have trouble reading.  

Want to keep the conversation going? Join others interested in discussing this topic here.


  1. Sometimes information feels right, based on prior knowledge and hunches.

    This article on learning gave me an aha moment.

    I've found that students do better when inspired to be self motivated rather than lectured.

    I started teaching in 1976 (Family Dance Studio)
    Kept getting teaching/training slots in the military based on my abilities to communicate.
    Instructed Computer usage and repair and programming as a Franchise owner
    Now back to Teaching Ballroom Dance.

  2. What a great collection of articles and videos! Thanks so much for putting them together. My daughter learned to read on her own at 3. Her twin brother is almost 6 and still has no desire to learn to read on his own. I'm glad they both have the freedom to learn on their own timetables.

  3. Wonderful collection of very well stated information that I strongly agree with. My 7 yr old taught herself to read at age 4. She taught herself because she loved books and wanted to read them herself instead of being dependant on someone to read to her. She wanted to write shortly thereafter and started teaching herself. She knew exactly how letters should be formed because she had looked at them for so long. But she is a lefty and found writing to be difficult (I believe it has something to do with not being able to see what you had just written as her hand would cover it). She is still working at writing-her brain works faster than her hand can and she tends to get frustrated. I dont push her. I dont lay down rules about writing. It has been an amazing thing to see. Even more amazing is the ability to just "know" grammar. She has actually caught grammatical and spelling errors in books she is reading that somehow slid by an editor. And her spelling skills are astounding as well. In my experience, a child can and will learn things when they are ready. Even without being formally taught.

  4. Not all teachers use these methods to teach students (I'm a teacher and I hate extrinsic rewards and coersion as a teaching method. It doesn't work and it kills the fun we're having.) Teachers should just be there to open doors. I hate grades and tests. My ideal day would be the kids show up, I present a topical conundrum or puzzler and we spend 50 minutes puzzling it and I provide guidance as needed. We chat, we develop, we enjoy and learn. I, however, show up and have to "present" a lesson to keep administration happy. It should, of course, include information relavent to the latest standardized test because I teach and non-core subject. I must entice kids to do the work because they've had any shred of couriosity bled out of them from past classes. I tell them to try new things, explore; they freeze, "How do I do it right?" "What if there is no right?" Them, "Is there a test over this?" "Maybe, do I need one?" Them, "You do if you want me to do it." Now I'm forced into the problem, but I don't see it as the kids' fault. We've trained them up right!

  5. Great links, Lisa! Since most of your links focus on reading, you might be interested in this post I wrote about writing: How Does a Child REALLY Learn to Write? It looks at how kids can learn to write if allowed to follow their own interests and motivations, and ends with some recommendations for parents. Including taking dictation from them when they're younger, rather than pushing writing on them at a young age.