Anyone in the house who can defend whole word, look-see reading?

My father, a physician, was so damn mad he could spit. He found out about look-see when 2 of my brothers were in early grade school–he got em out of that school in less than a week after he found out the silliness of look see. I was in college at the time and saw his anger that his boys were being cheated.

So what’s the problem with schools and the parents.

Functional illiteracy is epidemic because of the nonsense of the whole word/sight word/look-see method. My dad’s awakening was when he took one of the boys, who was in 2nd or 3rd grade out to the farm, and asked him to read the word on a STOP SIGN.

The Dolch list of words has been around for 65 tears and still used and recommended and Johnny still can’t read. Shame on the teachers and the educational professionals–another example of well meaning or just stupid?

Sure, sounding out the words with phonics isn’t a perfect system, but it is flexible and expansile (that is a word–sound it out).


10 responses to “Anyone in the house who can defend whole word, look-see reading?

  1. Stand up. Pick up your book. Read OUT LOUD the words on the page. Every day. Multiple times during reading time. Also at toher times in other subjects. Everyone. No exceptions from day one. 1st through 3rd or 4th grade. Every day. Every student. I didn’t know anyone who couldn’t read. Start with “See Dick run.” to full, complete paragraphs. Everyone could read. Everyone.

  2. When my kids asked me what a word was I said ‘The letters tell you what the ####ing word is…make the sound of the letters…’ They caught on and all could read fluently by the age of 5
    BTW, what if you struck a word like ‘agranulocytosis’ for the fist time….you’d have less than a snowflake’s chance in hell of being able to pronounce it without sounding out the syllables…we only have to read the small print on any ‘list of ingredients’ to meet this problem…

  3. This is used on 4 continents, I think. Not wide-spread, but effective.

  4. Of course, one of the real reasons we have 40 million functional illiterates is not because they have been exposed to a whole-language method to learn to read (well, it may be true for some of this particular group–read on); rather, an alternative reason, known to linguists for many decades, is that there are at least 2 types of language learners, and therefore 2 sufficiently efficient methods of language learning (a traditional, stuctural method, vs. whole-language) in practice nowadays (in many varieties); both have their places, based not on the trends among educators, but based on common brain organizations; and there are plenty of mixed-cases, as well, where a given student will learn best with a hybrid curriculum. Public schools, however, are generally willing to pay for one trendy curriculum at a time, even when two would better serve more students simultaneously. Thus, our school boards have decided that they would rather try one method at the expense of all others in an attempt to find the cheapest one-size-fits-all method that might succeed with the largest number of non-failures. Sloppy, and guaranteed to fail nearly half the time, because each overlooks very basic needs of nearly half of learners.

    Remember that writing is a technology, and that there is nothing (save at several layers of abstraction deeper than spelling) hard-wired about it in our brains. To me, the English script of the Roman alphabet is a pretty neat, phonemic-level writing system; to many Americans, please stop at “phonemic” and just teach me how to spell each word individually. This set of readers is not stupid nor lazy; for them, the logical distance between English pronunciation and spelling is too far to bridge theoretically, and they have to learn English spelling as if were as arbitrary as, say, Chinese (to a Western eye).

    My advice, then, is, “Please stop railing against what we have, which is ~50% of what we need; give us the other 50%, rather than replacing this half with a substitute that will also be ~50% of what we need.”

  5. Don’t give me advice, you arrogant man. look see whole word is bullshit and you are full of bullshit, including your tortured analysis above.


  6. If you’ve ever tried to teach English to a non-speaker you quickly realize how difficult a language is to read and write. Words aren’t spelled anywhere near the way they’re pronounced*, and then you have the homophones – ex. “their,” “there,” and “they’re” – to further confuse things. (By comparison, Spanish is pretty much spelled exactly the way it’s pronounced, simplifying the process immensely.)

    What that means in real life, in the trenches, is that when you’re teaching somebody to read you have rely on *both* phonics and whole word in the form of Flashcards. That, and constant practice, i.e. get-them-to-want-to-read.

    And the schools and parents fail on all of the above I believe. The former by emphasizing – emphasising? – one methodology over the other as per whatever is currently fashionable, as well as offering up the blandest, plain-vanilla, committee driven and politically correct schoolbook readers imaginable.** And the latter parents who don’t read themselves, can’t be bothered to turn off the TV, don’t take the kid to the library, and generally set things up for failure at home while – whilst? – expecting the schools to do all the heavy lifting for them.***

    If “Johnny Can’t Read” then it’s because everybody fails on all fronts.

    Just a thought.


    *This is where I confess that spellcheck was a gift from God for me.

    **Without going into tremendous detail, I once had a kid offer up that “Reading is boring.”
    My reply: “No, reading isn’t boring, but what you’re reading is boring.” And then I handed him a Robert E. Howard Novel, all gore-soaked and politically incorrect. (Let’s hear it for Tulwars, nearly naked Slave Girls and Black Cannibals with filed pointy teeth!!)
    That lit the fire.

    ***And there’s the reality that some kids (and their parents) are just plain stupid. Not PC (again), but get an educator drunk enough and they’ll.readily tell you that some people just aren’t educable.

  7. Hank de Carbonel

    Picture this. When I read the letters of Civil War soldiers, or Donner Party children I see vocabulary and clarity of thought. President Lincon seems to have been able to read and express himself pretty well.How could these and so many more people done so well without Experts? Without educators and only teachers, it is hard to imagine.

  8. Even though it was the fad de jour many winters ago when I was in school, my teacher did not believe in it, she taught phonics instead. Then I was in High School and one class we were expected to read to the rest of the class. Now there was this boy who was much more intelligent than I was, but when they asked him to read he could only stumble over one or two words, become embarrassed and set down. I could not imagine why, until I learned he had been taught only “see say” reading.

  9. Sounding out syllables and spelling it the way it sounds is probably good for a majority of people. However, I have known a few people who have hearing problems, either from when they were born, or acquired through a childhood infection. In the case of those with limited hearing, they literally cannot hear all of the sounds correctly, and so are just coming up with an approximation. I do wonder if some portion of the functionally illiterate have a hearing problem, or a limited range of hearing.

  10. In the school where my wife teaches, they have a designated reading specialist. She is famous for spending huge sums each year on books covering the then current “in” thing as pushed by reading experts.
    For years, my wife and other teachers asked that the reading classes be based on subjects the children were taking such as history, science etc. so they could learn as they read. Nope, they had to read pages written by experts telling them how to read. Not reading anything useful or interesting–just reading words and sentences the experts wanted read.
    And don’t even mention the word “syllabicate”. You will be called a right wing anti–government extremist.

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