Learning to Read

An Excerpt from How to Teach Phonics: A Better Days Books Home School Classic, by Lida M. Williams.

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LEARNING TO READ

Every sound and pedagogical method of teaching reading must include two basic principles.

1. Reading must begin in the life of the child, with real thought content. Whether the thought unit be a word, a sentence, or a story, it must represent some idea or image that appeals to the child’s interests and adjusts itself to his experience.

2. It must proceed with a mastery of not only words, but of the sound symbols of which words are composed.

The child’s love for the story, his desire to satisfy a conscious need, gives him an immediate and compelling motive for mastering the symbols, which in themselves are of incidental and subordinate interest. While he is learning to read, he feels that he is reading to learn and “symbols are turned into habit.”

If the child is to understand from the beginning that reading is thought getting, we must begin with the sentence, rhyme or other language unit. If a story is the initial step, a few well chosen sentences that tell the heart of the story will constitute the first black board reading lesson.

The next step is the analysis of the sentence, or the study and recognition of the individual words therein.

Finally the word is separated into its elementary sounds, the study of the sound symbols growing out of the stock of words learned first as purely sight words.

Following this phonic analysis comes the final step, the blending of these phonic elements to produce new words. Thus gradually increasing prominence is given to the discovery of new words by this analytic-synthetic process, and less time to sight word drills, until they are entirely omitted, except for the teaching of unphonetic words.

There should be at least two ten-minute lessons in phonics each day. These lessons are not reading lessons and should not trespass on the regular reading period, when thought getting and thought giving are uppermost.

While greater prominence is given to the thought phase in reading, the technical drill and active effort in mastering the mechanical phase is of equal importance as necessary preparation for good reading.
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This Article is an Excerpt from How to Teach Phonics: A Better Days Books Home School Classic, by Lida M. Williams, which is available from Better Days Books in quality hardbound, sturdy trade paperback and convenience .PDF e-book download editions, starting at just $3.95.

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