[Educators] have devised thousands of ingenious exercises to train children in this insane method of reading. They make them complete such sentences as "There are fish in the l_____", "The package was tied up with str____", or "I went to the zoo and saw a kangaroo j_____". The child is praised if he obligingly reads, "There are fish in the lake", "The package was tied up with string", and "I went to the zoo and saw a kangaroo jump."
Unfortunately — or fortunately — life is not as simple and dull as all that. Real-life sentences are apt to read "There are fish in the lagoon", "The package was tied up with straps", and "I went to the zoo and saw a kangaroo just as tall as you are."
A child taught by look-and-say will go through life and miss all the interesting and unexpected stuff in print. He's been trained to assume that what comes next is always the expected word and therefore never discovers the fact that, as often as not, printed matter takes surprising turns. — Rudolf Flesch, Why Johnny Still Can't Read: A New Look at the Scandal of Our Schools
The previous principal of our Upper Tax Bracket elementary school once told an assembly of parents that she always reads the ending of a book first, "so I know where it's going." This was my first clue that we would not see eye to eye. Why would anyone do such a crazy thing? Authors go to a great deal of trouble to make their stories unfold at a particular pace and in a particular sequence. Why would you wreck that? If the principal goes to see a movie, does she first catch the end of the previous showing?
I used to be utterly baffled that teachers are always telling kids to try to predict what happens next in the story, or to guess the story after looking at the jacket cover, but now that I've been researching the pedagogy of reading, I get it. Whole-language types actually believe that reading "comprehension" PRECEDES the reading of the words on the page! As Alfie Kohn says, it’s easier to decode a word when you already know what it means. This is the exact opposite of the way anyone who actually cares about reading would approach it, but why should that slow them down?
I even resent the very widespread practice of describing the opening of a book on the jacket blurb. This is especially bad news with mystery stories. "When the body of Mr. Allington is discovered in the garden shed, impaled on his own swordfish ..." Yeah, thanks for that. Now the first 20 pages of the book, which were a subtle lead-in to the discovery of Mr. Allington's body in the garden shed, have been ruined for me.