Pat Wyman, Reading, and Visualization
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In response to our Oct. 22 interview with Pat Wyman, Andy Perry from West Hollywood, California writes:
I had a very strong reaction to Pat Wyman's accounts of the best way to teach children--all children--to read, and of the way in which good readers--all good readers--process information. I have no doubt that Ms. Wyman's description is true for some good readers and that her technique works for some kids, but I think it is important to remember that, even among very young children, there is no such thing as a universally effective teaching strategy, because different people learn in different ways.
Posted by Josh Berman on October 25, 2005
Reponse by Pat Wyman to Weekend America Posts re: NAEP reading results - why nearly 70% of our 4th and 8th graders do not read at grade level.
Thank you to those of you who posted information and had reactions to the information contained in that interview on October 22nd. What is disappointing however, is that most of the factual information, both during the interview and in the one-jour pre-screen prior to the interview, was omitted or edited out. Therefore, what is available on the website is not only incomplete, but not at all representative of what I had to say. I have requested another interview with the editor and would love to hear back, so we can engage in an interview which contains the factual information that I want to relay on the many reasons America has a true reading crisis and what parents and teachers can do about it.
One important piece of information had to do with multiple learning styles, as one poster mentioned, and it was not included. Also, in more than 30 states, the cursory "vision screening" that most schools give, is totally unrelated to the skills children need to read. The typical "eye chart", where children cover one eye and look at a letter from 20 feet away, is a distance eye sight test, and tells someone whether a person can see a letter of a certain size from 20 feet away. This chart was designed in the 1800's to tell whether a child could see the blackboard from the back of the room. Since we do not read books at 20 feet away, these tests, without the addition of more comprehensive and relevant tests, are not only inadequate but misleading to both parents and teachers, when scores like 20/20 come back home with the child. Armed with a "screening score" of 20/20 many parents feel certain that their children have the skills they need to read a book, or see the print on a page the same way they do. This may not be the case at all, and according to numerous studies, in fact, encourages a mis-interpretation of the distance eye chart screening.
When kids don't read at grade level, the tendency is to blame the child, think he or she is lazy, attempt to diagnose the child with ADD/ADHD, or simply give up, and say the child just does not like reading.
Every child loves to read however, when they succeed as they are learning to read.
If the eyesight and visual skills needed to read are not tested, then how can we know what the page looks like from the child's point of view? How can we blame a child for poor performance, when we don't test the very skills they need to do what we're asking them to do?
There is a difference between eyesight and vision and this is not commonly known. Eyesight is simply the ability to see clearly; and vision is the ability to interpret or make meaning of what is seen. Therefore, if a child sees things on a printed page that are actually different than what is there, and we don't know about it, children suffer with poor grades, low reading test scores and what's worse, low self-esteem. This can lead to a vicious cycle that many studies show can result in juvenile delinquency and even worse. The ripple effects show up in the whole society, ranging from illiteracy to shuffling labor offshore, for more than just financial reasons.
When kids don't read at grade level, and we're allocating the dollars at what I call the "reading roof" or remediation after the fact, and not the eyesight and visual foundation; (including speech and language abilities) needed to read, our reading scores can't and won't improve.
Simply put, when we begin reading instruction with phonics before we diagnose and treat a possibly weak eyesight and visual skill foundation, then children may not even have the ability to read the phonics.
According to all the available data, we've made little or no statistically significant gains in reading, despite billions of dollars in federal programs, and countless hours spent on remediation, in more than a decade.
Finally, if we do what common sense dictates, diagnose our children thoroughly as they enter school, and treat any deficiencies we find, we give them every opportunity to succeed in an environment where they are required to read nearly all day, every day.
There's much more to say here and I welcome your comments and questions. As a reading specialist, and university instructor, I have seen thousands of children struggle needlessly due to a simple lack of information about whether or not they have the skills they need to read.
I have also testified on the need to make pupil vison screening laws more relevant to the actual skills children need to read. Although that scientifically proven "reading roof" (phonics) is one place to begin reading instruction, I believe we're making a grave error in judgment not testing for the skills needed to read the phonics first. Finally, the lack of reading score improvement clearly indicates that something has to change.
What do you think?
Posted by: Pat Wyman on October 31, 2005 7:33 PM