Sunday, January 20, 2013

Common Myths of Reading

I think most people, if not everyone, would agree that reading is a vital skill for survival in our society as it is.  I'm sure that most people reading this post right now haven't thought about all the work that goes into reading since elementary school. 

However, in Virginia alone there are 1,184,803 adults that lack a high school diploma according to the 2000 census.  According to the VAACE fact sheet, over 700,000 Virginians (ages 18-64) need a GED and higher skills training for today's job market.

Today, I would like to talk about some common myths that people have about the process of reading.

Students must know the words or be able to sound out words before reading the text.

Try reading these three words: mxxxxxxn,  hixx,   yxxxx

Now try reading them in context.
Almxxx evxxx yxxr, Mrs. Crooks climbs up a mxxxxxxn which is ovxx fourtxxx thxxxxxx fxxt hixx.  Mrs. Crooks xx ninexx-one yxxxx old.

Students who recognize and understand all the words comprehend the text.

Try this:
They had a purple miracle for three bloated rocks.  A man with a tasty highway will open the night for the April maple.  If ever a dog needed a flaming song, this grassy table will tell me today.

Now explain what that means... (Yeah that's what I thought too!)

Students who can answer questions comprehend the text.

Try this:
Jan bought a new stecker at the hardware store.  She needed a stecker for her minkle.  Everyone knows that a minkle won't dreep if doesn't have a good stecker.

What did Jan buy?
What did she need it for?
What would have happened if Jan hadn't bought it?

(Here is where I had a hard time even saying the last sentence without laughing.  But, if this had been real words that you just didn't know... how funny would that be when "everyone knows" except you?)

**These myths and examples were taken from LITSTART: Strategies for Adult Literacy and ESL Tutors, Third Edition; by Patricia Frey and with ESL application by Evey Renner; Published by Michigan Literacy, Inc.; 1999

Michigan Literacy Inc
2157 University Park Drive, Suite #4
Okemos, MI 48864
Fax: 517-349-6667

There are many ways to combat the problem of literacy that is all around us.  It takes a little time, it takes a little effort, and it takes a lot of heart.  The first step is to contact your local Adult Education center.  It may be on its own, it may be adjoining another office, it may even be found through your local community college or even public school.  Wherever you go to find it, I'm sure they need volunteers.  If you can only spare two - three hours a week to help make someone's life better, how much more would your own life be improved?

Reading isn't just an enjoyable pastime.  It is vital for individual growth, survival, and self-improvement.  If you know someone that "doesn't like to read" it is probably one of two reasons.  1)  They have difficulty comprehending what they read.  2)  They having found something that interests them.

I am not alone when I say that if you find something that interests someone, they will be more likely to read.  If they comprehend they will be more likely to read.  So, the key is to find something on a person's reading level that they are interested in.  Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, it is difficult to find interesting material for lower level adult readers. 

Because of this, I propose a challenge to all my readers:

If you are a writer, do a little research on reading levels and write a short story on 2nd - 3rd grade reading levels that would catch an adult's interest without embarrassing them.
If you are "not a writer," comment on what topics would be interesting to read even if you were in a waiting room.

For anyone and everyone:  If you know of or find a book, website, idea, or any other source that promotes reading... feel free to post your findings as links in the comments. 

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