Monday, September 29, 2014

Pre-Reading Pre-Tirade

Following my previous post on Teaching Parents to Help Stop the Summer Slide, I did some web-sleuthing on the subject of "picture walking".  It turns out to be one of a set of practices described as "pre-reading".  At first, I thought "pre-reading" would refer to activities kids could do before they learned to read, but no -- it turns out "pre-reading" refers to activities you're supposed to do with kids before they read a book, even after they've (allegedly) learned to read.  (WHY?  Just read the book!)

The only way to make sense of "pre-reading" activities is to place them in the world of Whole Language, where the goal is not to sound out the words on the page but to guess what the words might be from context.  If you're into word-guessing, it makes sense to have a discussion about the book first --- with any luck, you could increase the rate of correct guesses.

In retrospect, there's a smoking gun in the article:  this is a mother describing the progress made by her 8-year-old daughter in learning to read:
“English is such a funny language — it’s frustrating to learn to read. But she can use the pictures to figure out words. When she can figure out a big word like ‘restaurant,’ she says ‘I can do this.’”
Why should anyone have to look at a picture to decode "restaurant"?  It's not even that difficult phonetically (like, for instance, "through".)  And what will this kid do when she gets to books with no pictures?

I found an interesting article about pre-reading techniques called  Pre-reading or Not? Although the author thinks there's a place for pre-reading, he gives a solid list of objections to the practice, with these headers:
1.  Pre-reading takes too much time away from reading.
2.  Boring!
3.  Pre-reading commonly focuses on the wrong information.
4. Previews can ruin the reading experience.
5.  Previews are rarely purposeful.

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