Finally the penny has dropped – lit’racy has gong to the drogs

It is a simple truth that you learn to read by reading. It is also a truth that you learn to write by reading. For decades both have been ignored in school to the extent that this most useful subject, most important skill, and most important mark of a good education has been unable to exert itself into the school curriculum in an adequate manner
In the 1970’s and into the 1980’s adults who should have known better preferred to waste tine that rightly belonged to learners with the Phonics v. Ready-to-Read Debates. We have always known that both were essential. Students who simply bark at the print are denied the fact that learners get meaning from print by bringing meaning to print etc. Rich experiences in the home and the school are the fuel that feeds these fires. Stand back and think about that and you will also catch a glimpse of why some learners learn more easily than others.
And the material which is put in front of learners need not always be flash and ghee whiz! I have a modest collection of School Journals, going well back, and believe me – some of the material put in front of students in all decades was very ordinary. But there was also fiction and non-fiction of high quality, written by New Zealand’s most respected writers that provided a diet that was requiring all kinds of genre, all levels of difficulty and so readers were able to built a set of gears that they could harness and bring into use for reading a healthy range of reading using the different gear that have been developed.
Like everyone else, I was fed a series of readers at school (dutifully carried home in our little reading folders) which in our house were read numerous times. Some of those readers were an English version called Janet and John, it was a copy from an American series called Alice and Jerry.
School Readers were sometimes the cause for debate and hot demands for action from the officials. One such was the Washday at the Pa controversy. A special edition reader was a photographic booklet by Ans Westra, one of our best photographers, that focused on life among the communities of the East Cape. The book was launched on the morning of a conference in Wellington and immediately drew fierce complaints from the conference delegates. Children should not see such stuff. Stuff which honestly was a sensitive portrayal of the realities of real life in those communities. All copies were burnt overnight. The reaction was more measured on another occasion when a Ready-to-Read journal had a story about a Pakeha family who had trooped out to the airport to wave Daddy goodbye as he headed to Wellington in the Viscount Aircraft to attend a meeting – oh so middle class! New Zealand had a tendency to ban material as Alister Taylor discovered when the The Little Red Schoolbook appeared in schools!!
My mother took the view that “The stuff the boys read. Well, what we understood would do us no hard and the stuff we didn’t understand would also do us no harm.” This was a pretty safe bet in a Presbyterian home!
Thank goodness reading and writing (and mathematics) is at long last to be centre stage. Many learners will have withstood the absence for too long through the drought of instruction in those critical skill areas.

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