Reading Myths – Myth #2

Reading Myths – Myth #2

i Dec 23rd No Comments by

ALTA students often
cite widely held misconceptions about the teaching and learning of reading and
writing as factors that delayed their literacy journeys.

ALTA has long argued that the acquisition of reading skills requires concerted effort and is not an automatic outcome from being enrolled in the formal school system and being in a learning environment. Educator and literacy researcher Sebastian Wren, Ph.D, expounds on this as we continue to look at myths associated with reading.

#2: Children will eventually learn to read if given enough time

This is arguably
the second most pernicious myth, and it is closely related to the first. Many
who claim that reading is natural also claim that children need to be given
time to develop their reading skills at their own pace. This is a double-edged
sword because while it is true that children should be taught to read in
developmentally appropriate ways, and that we should always address instruction
to each child’s zone of proximal development, we should not simply wait for
children to develop reading skills in their own time. A child who is not
developing reading skills along with his or her peers is a reason for great

Research has revealed an extremely dangerous phenomenon that has been dubbed the “Matthew Effect.” The term comes from the line in the Bible that essentially says that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That certainly describes what happens as children enter school and begin learning literacy skills. Over time, the gap between children who have well developed literacy skills and those who do not get wider and wider.

At the early
grades, the literacy gap is relatively easy to cross, and with diagnostic,
focused instruction, effective teachers can help children with poor literacy
skills to become children with rich literacy skills. However, if literacy
instruction needs are not met early, then the gap widens – the rich get richer,
and the poor get poorer – until the gap gets so wide that bridging it requires
extensive, intensive, expensive and frustrating remedial instruction. The gap
reaches this nearly insurmountable point very early – research has shown that
if a child is not reading grade-appropriate materials by the time he or she is
in the fourth grade, the odds of that child ever developing good reading skills
are very slim. It is still possible, but it is much more difficult, and the
child’s own motivation becomes the biggest obstacle to success.

Wren, S.
(2002). Ten myths of reading instruction. SEDL.

If you or someone you know is interested in enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Reading Myths – Myth #1

i Dec 10th No Comments by

ALTA students often cite widely held
misconceptions about the teaching and learning of reading and writing as
factors that delayed their literacy journeys. Today we begin a look into some
of these myths.

Since most of us can’t remember when or how we
learnt to read, we tend to think of this skill as being a task we are born to
do, rather than one that requires systematic, focused instruction. In his
article, “Ten Myths about Learning to Read,” the myth of reading as an innate
process is debunked by US-based literacy researcher Sebastian Wren, Ph.D,
author of The Cognitive Functions of Learning to Read: A Framework.

Myth #1: Learning to read is a natural process.

It has long been argued that learning
to read, like learning to understand spoken language, is a natural phenomenon.
It has often been suggested that children will learn to read if they are simply
immersed in a literacy-rich environment and allowed to develop literacy skills
in their own way. This pernicious belief that learning to read is a natural
process resulting from rich text experiences is surprisingly prevalent in
education—despite the fact that learning to read is not only unnatural, it is
one of the most unnatural things humans do.

There is a difference between learning
to read text and learning to understand a spoken language. Learning to
understand speech is indeed a natural process; starting before birth, children
tune in to spoken language in their environment, and as soon as they are able,
they begin to incorporate a language. If the linguistic environment is not
sufficiently rich or if it is confusing, the innate drive to find a language is
so strong that, if necessary, children will create a language of their own
(examples of this include twin languages and pidgin languages). Given the
opportunity, children will naturally develop all of the essential comprehension
skills for the language to which they are exposed with little structured or
formal guidance.

By contrast, reading acquisition is not
natural. While the ability to understand speech evolved over many, many
thousands of years, reading and writing are human inventions that have been
around for merely a few thousand years. It has been only within the past few
generations that some cultures have made any serious attempt to make literacy
universal among their citizens.

If reading were natural, everybody
would be doing it, and we would not have to worry about dealing with a
‘literacy gap.’ According to the National Institute for Literacy and the Center
for Education Statistics, more than 40 million adults in this country alone are
functionally illiterate, and despite our best educational efforts,
approximately 40 percent of our fourth graders lack even the most basic reading
skills. These staggering numbers provide evidence that reading is a skill that
is quite unnatural and difficult to learn.

Wren, S. (2002). Ten myths of reading instruction. SEDL.

If you or someone you know is interested in enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA

For the Love of Reading TT

i Dec 2nd No Comments by

This week, we feature yet another
innovative initiative in the field of literacy, For the Love of Reading TT.

For the Love of Reading TT is a feel-good,
community centred project which started in April 2018 out of a real passion for
reading and sharing. We collect book donations and distribute them to our ten
book corners in various parts of Trinidad. Anyone can pick up one or two books
for free – no strings attached.

We have shared over 40,000 books to date
and touched thousands of people from all walks of life. At the book corners we
hear things like “Free books!”, “Are they really free?”, “I’m choosing one for
my aunt”, “Where can I find a book for my nephew?”, “Can I donate some books
next time?”, “I haven’t seen this book since I was in primary school!”, and
occasionally “I’ve been looking for this book all over the place!”.

The business-owners who host our book
corners have recounted some heart-warming stories too. We have seen the joy in
the faces of young children who are told that they can choose any book they
want. Some people who lost their belongings in the floods of 2019 became
regular visitors to one nearby book corner. Another customer was a homeless
person who borrowed a wartime book each time he visited and would read and
return it before borrowing another.

The businesses that host our book corners
are all aligned with our concept of community spirit, of giving freely and
without judgement. We feel strongly that books should be accessible to all,
whether it is to develop literacy skills as a child or adult, or for a seasoned
reader to simply enjoy a good book.

It has been inspiring to see that people
have been consistently willing to give; we have had a constant supply of
donated books since we started more than three years ago. It reassures us that
the idea of selfless sharing does exist. It is exactly for this reason that we
say “no strings attached”. People can take a book for free with no need to give
another in return. They can keep it for themselves, pass it on to someone else
when they are done, or return it to the bookshelf.

For the Love of Reading TT was founded by
Najmie Khan – volunteer ALTA teacher and reading enthusiast – who enlisted the
help of her daughter Aara. We are assisted by a small group of volunteers who
help to clean and sort incoming donations before the books are placed on the
shelves. We are always in need of more volunteers to help sort and clean books,
and manage book corners. Get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram if you
would like to get involved! 

You can also help out by donating books at
any of our book corners. We appreciate all book donations, whether it is one
book or a hundred. People donate all types of books – novels, non-fiction,
textbooks, children’s books, cookbooks, and more. We are always especially excited
when we receive donations of local literature too, which disappear quickly once
we put them on the bookshelves.

If you would like to donate books, you can drop them
off at any of our ten locations – it feels good to do good! The listing of all
book corner locations is available on social media pages, or at