This May Be Difficult to Read: But You Really Should (For Your Child’s Sake)
by Claire N. Rubman, PhD
Education & Parenting Matters

"Children construct knowledge from the world around them. If we provide the ideal tools, we need only leave the construction up to our children."

Author, professor, and parent Rubman has gathered a bounty of research and personal experience focused on helping children learn to read. In doing so, she explores and puts to rest many “myths” regarding this process, with the purpose of guiding her audience to the best, most potent methods available. The concern that prompted her to bring these issues to light is simple, straightforward, and undeniably disturbing: statistically, as many as 67% of American eighth graders can’t read as well as required, and a surprising number of college students must enroll in remedial reading classes in their freshman year. It is notable, too, that nearly half of those included in the collected data come from middle- and upper-class home environments.

Part of the problem, Rubman recognizes, is the over-zealousness of some parents who may incorrectly believe that reading begins in infancy or at a very early age. The myth that “earlier is better” can be dispelled partly by understanding how the brain grows; it is designed to absorb but not necessarily comment on what is seen, heard, and felt in a child’s first few years. There is a multitude of other myths that may affect a parent’s approach, such as the belief that just because a child can repeat words, they comprehend their meaning or that phonetics is the key, though much of standard vocabulary consists of “unfriendly” words like “one” and “eye” that cannot be grasped phonetically.

Rubman’s book is organized first to demonstrate those techniques that do not work in early reading education and then to offer a set of four levels of experiential materials that will, in fact, open the world of literacy to youngsters, both in the home environment and in a group atmosphere. These methods include creating stories using a few phonetically friendly words accompanied by simple illustrations to evoke questioning and further related exercises. Rubman is a cognitive development psychologist who teaches at a community college. She has raised her three children and taught her students based on the principles and practices gleaned through diligent study, which are vividly arrayed here.

The basic technique proffered to the book’s readers encourages thinking as a child thinks. Each chapter examines preconceptions and new ways to consider each avenue of misconception. Rubman stresses the need to continue reading out loud to children even as they are being taught to read for themselves and the importance of making the early education experience as relaxed as sitting around a family dinner table. Creating storylines that involve small mysteries can stimulate a child to look for solutions and come up with the next chapter in the tale. Rubman’s approach to these critical matters, based on her concern at the discouraging statistics cited, contains colorful illustrations and simple examples and allegories that teach the parent/teacher to guide the child. Rubman’s work can be utilized by those at home with a single young child or those in a classroom with many. Her book’s title, with its gently ironic humor, hints at her teaching technique, aimed at all who wish to help children advance and, as she has seen happen, “succeed beyond their wildest dreams.”

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