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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Teaching Reading in the Failing Public Schools

An article in the June 23, 2023 issue of The Wall Street Journal ("Phonics finally Gets Its Due in New York. It took the city's education bureaucracy 20 years to recognize that the Success Academy approach works") described the shocking failure of the public school's ability to teach reading. Yet the blame is not theirs alone since if parents read first to and then with their toddlers, almost all children would be reading simple books by the time they entered kindergarten. And if all parents explained their directives (apart from emergency situations) rather than saying, "Do it because I say so," their cognitive development would be further enhanced since not providing explanation depresses the development of both the capacity for abstract thinking and of intrinsic motivation ("motivation which is inherent in information processing and action," as the noted psychologist, Joseph McVicker Hunt, stated in his 1960s paper). Hunt's work was a major influence in beginning the Head Start program. Learning and its love begin at home. Sadly, these no-cost education remedies are far from universal.

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´╗┐Children and Reading

Children have the genetically ingrained capacity to induct the grammar of their native language. Thus does a child born in Germany naturally learn to speak German and a child born in Italy naturally learn to speak Italian. This has been known by psychologists for many years. Similarly, the brain has the ingrained capacity to induct the nature of reading, but only if the child is first read to and then with by a parent when they are a toddler. Given this interaction, most children will be reading simple books by the time they begin kindergarten. While the public education system is generally poor at teaching children with difficulties, attempting to paper-over their inadequacies with trumpeted pronouncements, teachers cannot be expected to take the place of children who have failed to receive the "good-enough" parenting that is the birthright of all children. Thus many children are unable to read and unready to learn, or even cognizant of basic courtesy as teachers complain. Nuff said.

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Why Many Children Can't Read

That many children can't read shouldn't be happening since this ability is innate and learning it presents no greater difficulty than learning to eat with a spoon. Why it does is the unacknowledged "Elephant in the Room," and not the fault of teachers but of parents.
A child naturally learns the language of their country of birth. Thus one born in the U.S.A. learns English and one born in Germany learns German and the same for other countries. They accomplish this not by memorizing all combinations of words which is impossible, but by inducting the grammatical structure of their language, a task for which the human brain is genetically programmed at birth.

Thus if parents first read to and then with their toddler beginning at two years of age, aiding the reading learning process by moving their finger along the printed line, their child will read simple books upon beginning kindergarten. Not all children but nearly all, provided that they are experiencing a "good-enough" parenting since its lack can create psychological difficulties affecting learning.

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President Obama's Proposal of Free E-books Reflects Naive Psychology

President Obama's proposal to provide free E-books reflects naive psychology since there are already free books available through school and local libraries. What is needed is for parents to read to toddlers and to speak with rather than to their children (i.e., explain why something shouldn't be done rather than saying, "Do  Read More 
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