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A. Motiar

Thornhill (Ont.), Enhanced Learning Resources, 1991. 64pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-920527-02-7. CIP

Reviewed by Gail Lennon.

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

This book is really a workbook, which claims, through a system called the 3E Reading System (which one can also purchase from the same publisher for a mere $35.00), to turn out "readers in just twelve days."

This book contains a double-page layout for each alphabet letter. The procedure involves presenting each letter as a picture, a rhyme to be read to the child about each letter, and a colouring exercise which entails filling in each letter and the accompanying overlay picture. Finally, words and blends that combine letters already presented with the new letter are presented. The approach stresses teaching each letter as a sound, not as a letter name.

While the concepts of presenting each letter as a picture and providing an accompa­nying rhyme have some merit, the practice of teaching letters in isolation and assuming children will "learn to read" by this method alone is ludicrous. It violates most of the basic principles of whole language philoso­phy. Moreover, it takes reading instruction back twenty-five years!

First, the procedure totally ignores using print-rich environments and the child's own language. When last did any of us talk about "an inkpen" or employ the phrases "flapping its fins at you and me" or "a force strong and mighty that nothing can stop"? Secondly, this method of reading instruction com­pletely ignores two of the three cueing systems researchers believe competent readers employ when seeking meaning from print. Nowhere in this system is there any attempt made to encourage semantic and syntactic cues. Thirdly, the system does not aim at seeking meaning from print but, rather, plays a detective game of blending sounds to get unusual and/or non-existent words. Finally, this system presents reading as a "barking exercise" rather than as a dialogue between writer and reader. It makes no use whatsoever of the child's background experiences, nor does it encour­age a print-rich environment.

It is ironic that the author has called his system "Reading Made Easy." Based on what we know of the reading process through the research of such celebrated educators and authors as Ken and Yetta Goodman, Judith Newman and Nancie Atwell, this program will do nothing to make reading an easy and natural process. Quite the contrary, it reduces reading to putting sounds together with no intended meaning.

While the book is attractive and the pictures entertaining, parents who hoped to give their children a "headstart on reading," as this book advertises, might better spend their $5.95 on a library membership, a pad of drawing paper and drawing tools, and their free time reading to their child and exploring the world around them.

Gail Lennon is a resource teacher with the Bruce County Board of Education at Walkerton District Secondary School in Walkerton, Ontario.
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