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.

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