Ask Reading Kingdom: What are the top questions from homeschoolers about early literacy?


Pamela (parent) asks:

What is a top question or concern you receive from parents of home schooled children about early literacy?

Reading Kingdom answers:

Home schoolers and non-home schoolers often express a common concern. Both groups repeatedly question the key role that writing plays in the Reading Kingdom. Often the question is phrased in the following terms: I want my child to read—I am not concerned about writing—why are you insisting that they learn to write?

I have written about this topic several times. Because it is so crucial, I’m pleased to have this opportunity to discuss it once more. From the parents’ point of view, the question is entirely reasonable since it reflects the traditional view that dominates the teaching of reading. In that view, there is a schism between reading and writing. Reading is taught via the rules of phonics and there is an insistence that the words be sounded out accurately. Unfortunately, those rules as they are taught to the children, do not serve to achieve accurate writing. For example, using the rules, a word such as “little” could be “litul,” “litil,” “littol” “lidl” and on and on. These difficulties have led to an acceptance of whole language instruction with regard to writing. In this approach, children write words in any way that seems reasonable to them and accuracy goes by the boards. So it’s no wonder that parents are bewildered by the important role we assign to accurate writing—when the rest of the world does not.

We do so because research—and experience—have shown, that accurate writing is of enormous benefit in teaching reading and in developing a range of critical skills including diligence and sustained attention. For example it has been found that the accurate writing of a word two times is as effective as reading the same word nine times. If you think about it, it’s not surprising. Consider a young child confronting a word such as “elephant.” It has several unique characteristics. It’s longer than most words the child has to read, it starts with an e and it has several “big” letters in it. Using those features alone and without really seeing the word in all its detail, the child can easily read the word when (s)he comes across it on a page. That coping strategy, however, will not work for writing. If the word is to be written correctly, every single letter must be identified, held in mind and put down in the right sequence.  That’s just one example of the benefits that writing affords in the learning process. Hopefully, as this key skill receives the attention it deserves, the views about relationships between reading and writing will change—leading ultimately to far more effective teaching for the children.

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