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Reading’s Nature and Value: Learning How to Read
The world of reading is a beautiful vista of human society and how it works. In view of the fact that everything cannot be fully understood by merely observing various types of phenomena (things, events, activities, and occurrences) in the human world, more sophisticated systems have to be devised to address the more intricate and elusive details of the world and how its convoluted machinery of people and activities are tied together. Of course quite a bit can be deciphered by merely watching things very closely and trying to connect the recondite system of dots that are interlaced with the things that one sees with his naked eye. Unfortunately, life’s complex nature often requires that one go beyond the bare visual elements that can be observed. Abstract, sophisticated systems have been devised and developed with a view to revealing these even more complex life systems.
These tools devised for helping man to more fully understand his environment are quite often not so easily and readily understood; for example, mathematics, language, and reading are three relatively simple pedagogic tools that have been developed by educated human beings, in view of helping their fellowmen to better understand how the cosmic system of nature around them works. These cognitive tools are abstract codes that have to be deciphered and translated into simple English that lay people can understand. The need for this broad sweep of understanding involves both the human machine on the earth and all the cosmic cogs or elements that one sees in the world such as mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts and so forth. Mathematics, language, and reading provide the radical foundation that enables human beings to understand the world around them; and in the simplest of terms, these foundational elements that promote understanding of the world are themselves languages. Accordingly, language is the medium through which human beings are able to both communicate with, and understand, the world around him.
Man’s creation of these communicative tools have promoted a better understanding of the world and enabled him to solve a host of problems that otherwise would remain largely unsolved. These fundamental communication tools have hastened human progress and fostered a high level of scientific and technological advancement that could not have transpired in an otherwise complex, hostile world. Thus, the application of language, reading, and mathematics has vastly aided man to promote a greater understanding of both the physical and biological world. What is particular interesting here is that all three of these pedagogic methodologies of presenting abstract information to human beings are themselves languages. Mathematics is loaded with symbols that are presented in a scripted form.
Written texts, numbers, algebraic symbols, geometric forms, and sophisticated equations are all complex linguistic scripts that have their own unique interpretation and require a particular level of academic expertise in order to interpret and understand them. In short, mathematics is a unique type of reading: It is a language with its own vocabulary, which requires a certain level of cognitive sophistication in order to carry on a conversation in it; accordingly, is no different from French, or German, or English. It is a language in its own right. What is particularly interesting here among all three of the different languages mentioned above is that they all have their own symbological system that enables one to understand. Thus, a closer look at these three different languages reveals how language works—it uses symbols that must be interpreted and translated only by someone who has achieved a certain measure of expertise to do so.
Although the express purpose of this article is not to treat the topic of language in its entirety, a blunt understanding of the concept of language and how it is communicated does shed light on the nature of the language of reading, the real matter at issue in this article. The idea of mathematics and language has been merely mentioned to underscore the fact that reading is not merely some obscure pastime in which some people engage; it is fundamentally a language in its own right. At the core of reading is a clearly defined system of symbols that must be interpreted and understood in the context of its own deciphering code. This reading code is displayed in a script called the alphabet, an abstract system of sounds. As was so elegantly pointed out earlier, mathematics is a language with its own code of symbols which cannot be understood without a certain level of expertise to decipher and unlock the contents within the code. In the same vein, reading has its own unique code, which is a phonetic script. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabetic script, several of which have multiple sounds.
These sounds are the phonetic code of the language of reading: Mastery of these sounds is often tantamount to mastery of the language of reading itself. Learning to read is just like learning another language. Each letter has its own sound system, and of course, some letters only have one sound. Of foremost importance in learning to read is the mastery of this phonetic code; however, because vowels are the ocean on which the ship of the reading language sails, it is absolutely crucial to master the phonetic sound system of vowels. This is because words virtually have no meaning or sound without the use of vowels. Without vowels, the sound is choked: It is unutterable and meaningless. To put it another way, words cannot be uttered without vowels.
Now, in the alphabet, there are two kinds of letters: Vowels—A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes, Y—and consonants. Thus, most words are composed of vowels and consonants. One might ask, “Well, what is a consonant?” In plain and simple language, a consonant is any letter that is not a vowel; therefore, letters like B, C, D, F, G, Q, and Z are all consonants. Now, try to form a word with only consonants: What you find is that it does not work. You cannot form words without vowels. For example, if we clump the letters “PN,” we have no sound; however, if we insert an “A” between PN, we would get PAN: Is that a word? It most certainly is. PAN is the word, a kitchen utensil used for cooking food. What becomes immediately obvious here is that word formation is based on the idea of inserting vowels between consonants. Every time a vowel is placed between two consonants, it always produces a pronounceable sound or word.
Thus, this is a law regarding how language is developed: Words issue from the correct combination of consonants and vowels. Let us look at a few more combinations of consonants and vowels and see what happens. A and S give us the word “AS;” A and SS give us the word “ASS.” S and A give “SA;” S, A, and M give us the word “SAM.” Notice that S and A do give a word with a clearly defined sound: It is SA, but that is not a word. Although SA is not a word, notice that it allows or yields the sound SA. Thus, one can say, “My name is SA.” What becomes immediately obvious here is the emergence of the First Law of Learning to Reading: You must learn to read by first leaning the individual sounds of the each individual letter. Once you have mastered the individual sounds of all twenty-six letters in the alphabet, the next law of reading kicks in. Your second task is to begin combining consonants and vowels and sounding them out aloud—and you must experiment with that process for some time, combing as many consonants and vowels as possible.
This combination of consonants and vowels will give you insight into, and mastery of, sound creation; which is the very essence of learning to read. Let us look at a few more consonant-vowel combinations: AT, BAT, GAM, DAY, MY, JUMP, CAT, MAT, ZAG, GAGA, BAM, MAN, POP, POPE, DA, DAD, DADDY, MO, MOM, MOMMY, and WIND. This brief phonetic code clearly depicts the pattern of sound creation and language development, and what we see here is the clear emergence of a pattern of how words develop from simple consonant and vowel combination. For example, let us take the word “MO:” The combination of M and O does give us a word and sound MO. Notice what happens when we add an “M” to MO; we get the word “MOM,” a shortened version of the word “MOTHER” or “MOMMY;” thus, we see that combining consonants and vowels not only produce soundable words, they also produce the basic building blocks of language. These foundational building blocks of language are called syllables. Therefore, language is the result of rational combination of syllables; and words are the end product of binding different syllables together.
Now, let us look more closely at syllables and see exactly how they are formed. Let us go back to the combination of M and O. What do we have here? The word is “MO”—not quite a word but a legitimate sound that can be uttered. One can choose to call himself “MO,” as in “My name is MO.” Watch what happens when I add RE to the end of MO: What do I get? I get MORE, which means adding to a quantity that I already had. If we take the word MO and add MMY to it, we would get MOMMY. If we take the word RA and DIO to it, we will get the word “RADIO.” If we added LOG to radio, we would get the word “RADIOLOG;” and if we added IC to RADIOLOG, we would get the word RADIOLOGIC. In a flash, you can quickly see how reading works. You learn to read by learning the phonetic script of the sounds associated with the alphabet’s vowels and consonants, and then learning to combine those elements together into an ever-increasing system of longer and longer words.
The longer a word becomes, the more syllables the word will have. For example, let us take the word “MORE;” It only has one syllable. Now, let us stretch this word more some more. Let take the word “MOREOVER:” How many syllable does MOREOVER have? There are only two syllables in MOREOVER: MORE and OVER. The term means in addition, also, additionally. This progressive system of leaning and mastering sounds is the key to learning to read. It is also important to notice that, in reading, words, sounds, and syllables mean the same thing; thus, once you have a good handle on syllables, you will automatically have a good handle on reading—anything, any book, any magazine. Folks, it is just that simple: That is the way reading words. That is the way you learn to read.
Obviously, the process of learning individual vowel and consonant sounds does take time and effort: It not would come just like that. In this regard, anyone can learn to read within a relatively short period of intensive effort at memorizing the individual phonetic sounds of the alphabet’s various letters and learning to blend consonants and vowels in an ever-increasingly complex manner. As the reading learner becomes more sophisticated at grouping syllables in an orderly and more advanced way, the more adept he will become at understanding the complex language associated with reading and the greater mastery he will ultimately achieve in reading itself. If you have been following me very closely, you would have noticed that I have purposely avoided treating the psychological components associated with reading. I did deem it more fitting to treat the mechanical aspects of rote memorization and understanding of the systematic programming of deciphering the phonetic script. I wanted to emphasize the important of assimilating the notion that the reading language has to be memorized first and understood as a body of knowledge that needs to be mastered before the full weight of psychology can be appreciated.
The various phonetic sounds must be learned, memorized, and inculcated before cognitive processes should be emphasized. One might argue that the various phonetic sounds themselves are inherently cognitive in nature, and therefore should be accentuated ahead of learning and mastering them—and that may very well be true, but in many cases, bungling up elementary reading with a whole lot of psychology turns out to be quite a nuisance and stumbling block to learning what is more important and essential to mastering the language of reading. Surely cognitive processes are involved in learning the sounds, but they are also involved in learning just about everything else. No one teaches little children to lie; but when cornered in a difficult situation, children lie. Those cognitive elements associated with making decisions to defend oneself at the expense of distorting the truth kick in early in infancy.
Nonetheless, although overt effort should not be made at teaching beginning readers the psychology involved in reading; the psychological aspects of cognitive understanding and development should be emphasized and incorporated within the learning atmosphere in which the students are taught to read. Thus, psychology serves the children more effectively by the kinds of objects that are placed in the classroom that subliminally teach the students how reading works—and nothing does that better than psychology in the form of posters, pamphlets, colors, and imaginative types of objects. This type of psychological brain programming subliminally teaches children more about reading than any undue emphasis on psychology in the classroom. Some teachers actually make a conscious effort to talk about psychology with the students and try to figure out how they all learn as individual: This is better handled by simply keeping it in mind and getting the children to focus more on learning the phonetic script. The emphasis ought to be on teaching students how to piece together vowels and consonants in order to form syllables and how to combine syllables to form bigger and bigger words, thus opening up the treasury of reading to them.
Now, the process of learning to read outlined here is a rather simplified model of teaching people to read; and of course, the approach to working with children and adults would change markedly—and even more so from teacher to teacher. However, fundamental pedagogic techniques of drills and tests are the cornerstones of any serious instructional reading program; thus, the thus the instructional reading should be based on rigorous sound mastery, syllable formation, progressive syllable sophistication, and spelling drills. The key word here is progressives. The teacher should spend about two months with his students learning individual letter sounds and forming one syllable words. This vigorous drill would give them a solid phonetic foundation with regards to understanding word formation and learning to pronounce individual one-syllable words very well. In this regard, a two-month drill should give the students a strong foundation in word and sound formation, which is the basis of learning to read. People who stumble in reading have never really mastered the phonetic code—and that is a common problem today, even all the way up to college: Some people never ever learn to read effectively. Why?
They have flunked the phonetic drills test that they either dodged earlier on or hated because of the mechanical aspect of having to memorize individual sounds. And indeed, phonics has been shoved aside by many English teachers who do not want to drill the students in the individual phonetic sounds. Many have advanced the idea that students would learn to read when they were ready: Well, many never came around to being ready to read; and today, society is filled with people who never really learned to read. Additionally, spelling and writing are intricately and indissolubly wired to reading; thus, if someone never learned read; he most likely cannot spell or write. Spelling and writing are merely tools of reading: If you cannot read, neither will you be able to write and spell properly. Reading, writing, and spelling are a triune whole; public education has endeavored to make them something else—and it has failed big time. The idea that phonics is too mechanical has been glibly swallowed by many school officials. Unwilling to confront discipline issues head on in the classroom, many school districts have simply marginalized students’ education and turn the educational system of training young people to be law-abiding citizens and to prepare for a productive livelihood tomorrow into something else—something that is more fun to the students. And what is the result? Society has been turned upside-down and has become increasingly illiterate; replete with people who do not value, and see the importance of, mastering reading in an ultracompetitive world.
And this has hamstrung the West, creating a shallow-minded civilization of people who have never valued the merits of reading and its ability to train one how to be an independent thinker. Today, the world, as a whole, is run by a handful of billionaires who call the shots and determine how other human beings, less fortunate than they, should live their lives. Right now, there is a dire shortage of straight-thinking intellectuals who can run society in the best interest of all. The world is now run by slick secret societies that use crooked, corrupt politicians as their cronies and pawnshops; and the whole world is rapidly sinking into the slimy quagmire of corruption, folly, vanity, and ignorance. Despite the ugly caricature of Western intellectual might being flushed down the drain, it is still not too late to bail out the water and keep the ship of sane and sensible human existence afloat. The Western world must return to all the basics that it has flushed down the commode. The program of reading is simple; the tools and components are the same as they have always been. They have not changed. The need for rote memorization of phonetic sounds, rigorous drills in syllable combinations, and intense testing in reading and spelling to determine if the stuff taught is being assimilated is greater now than ever before. And yes, some of this content can be dry and unpalatable, but so is statistics and linear programming and stock analysis: You hardly hear anyone complaining about how dry statistics is: Why? People who study statistics are involved business management, and they need it order to understand the mechanics of business operation that enables them to make a wash of money.Phonics-driven reading, on the other hand, is viewed as boring and unexciting—so they say. This attitude towards mental development in the West has resulted in many Western economies being dwarfed by places like China, Japan, and India.
Once the West wakes up and realizes what has been happening to its standard of living, it will be willing to adopt a different attitude towards public education and to save itself from the frightening shipwreck of political and economic marginalization. Every society needs a sophisticated gaggle of sharp, well-rounded intellectuals who have learned to think for themselves; imprisoning Western intellectuals in the dark, cramped prisons of secret societies is the surest sign of the end of human civilization in the world because the world was never designed to function that way. The flood of secrecy that now mars human society is a hellish concoction that would drown the human race in the rough, termagant sea of imbalance and evil. It is a perversion of nature; one for which man, in all his folly and vanity, would pay an exorbitant price. Mastering the basics of reading and using it as a tool for independent thinking are one of the most crucial ingredients that any progressive society must encourage and have: The muddy system of secrecy in the world today blocks that and endeavors to remove it wherever it seems to appear. The way American society, for example, marginalizes public education; it is not hard to see what is going in the West. Massive blocks of human beings are being prepared for mass destruction for the simple reason that they are not going to be able to compete and survive in an ever-increasingly complex, hostile, and dangerous world.
The public is simply not properly educated today: The public education system is not designed for young people to have access to a healthy, rewarding, and success-driven education. That observation is plainly and pathetically true.. The outrageous sham of public education in the United States today is a rank travesty. Anyone in his right mind who gives public education in the United States a good hard look would realized that something very sinister is afoot and a whole lot of people are going to have to pay the piper when all these millions of young, uneducated, morally depraved, societal misfits eventually come of age and realize that society has played a nasty game on them. Public education in the West, and in particular, the United States of America, is a mere sham: Students graduate from high school and cannot read. If that is not a travesty of the highest degree, I do not know that a travesty is. How did things get this way? Public education officials simply relegated the issue of disciplining students and teaching them decent values and morals to that of parents’ responsibility. And don’t get me wrong: I am not intimating that parents should not train their own children and instill good morals and values into them; such reasoning on my part would be preposterous. What I would like to emphasize here is that most parents have not been able to discipline their own children: the corrupt government system has turned itself into God, prohibiting parents from disciplining their own children as they see fit–and that should never be allowed.
The school system has refrained entirely from treating discipline with any measure of importance. The mess in public schools today is evident even to the blind. Children seemingly have carte blanche impunity to do whatever they good well feel like doing and saying in the school environment and to hell with teachers who man those classrooms. Those very children are being groomed for a sour, poisonous tomorrow—and there is simply no way that they would ever be able to escape the nasty network of booby traps that society has set for them. And that is not fair to those children who are not being disciplined for the flagrant wrongdoing which they perpetrate on school campuses. That is not fair to their parents who are interdicted by the government from disciplining them at home, and that is far from being fair to society which needs the precious and priceless skills, talents, and gifts that are being muffled, smothered, and destroyed in those children by a heartless, futile public education system that prepares to spend most of their lives in prison: That tis not fair at all. Those children, blinded by the tarry paste of unreasonable secrecy in society and heartless school officials, are carelessly walking down a very dangerous road. Those poor, innocent children are like drunken hoboes hobbling across a very busy and hazardous highway. And the teachers who ought to warm them of the dangers that lie ahead are hamstrung in virtually every possible way.
All of a sudden, education has to be fun—every “da gone” thing has to be fun; and the only thing that is not going to be any fun is the flood of societal misfits that are leaving the public education system every day—seven thousand high school students in America drop out every single day. Where all these misfits and societal dropouts are going to find their way in life is anybody’s guess. And the societal train wreck is happening every single day. School officials, afraid to lose their jobs, back off and leave the thorny chore disciplining students alone; accordingly, vice and moral disorder bloom on public school campuses all across America. Students who never learned to read are merely passed on from grade to grade , tossed through a vapid, futile system like bags of rice to the twelfth grade from whence they are dumped into the Sargasso Sea of societal doom. And who would pay the piper for this mess—every last one of us who stood by and did absolutely nothing about it. More prisons have to be built as jobs dry up when the United States’ Dollar loses its reserve status in the world. The frightening specter looming is tantamount to the release of all of Tartarus’ fallen angels upon the earth.
What is the answer to this fast-approaching crash site of the American society? We must restore law and order to society; we must restore virtue and morality in the classroom; and we must go back to teaching young people, not only how to read, but also to instill into them a firm sense of character and moral responsibility for their actions. We must return to the phonetic drills of the past and treat ill-behaved students accordingly. We must vigorously train young people how to read and write and do abstract mathematics. We must make mastery of reading a priority. Judging from the scale of societal decay today and the rank arrogance and cynicism among education officials about change, it is very doubtful that society is ready for the massive kind of reprogramming and resocialization that would be necessary in order to prevent the titanic ship of human survival from sinking to the bottom of the sea. Society will pay an extortionate price for its cavalier brinksmanship and toying with its own ruin.
The major societal players today belong to dangerous secret societies that just know that things are going in the right direction: They are high-minded, arrogant, bumptious, and presumptuous. They see danger coming and look in the opposite direction, acting as if all is well. The handwritings are on the wall for societies that have abandoned public education in their midst, cavalierly tossing away all the basics that used to work but which has been summarily thrown out. The public education sector has failed to teach young people to read; tossing out phonics as old and archaic. It has failed tomorrow’s generation and has been mass-producing societal misfits and dropouts The Western world’s marginalization of truth and introduction of old lies as the new model of truth is a quaint dose of poison that would send West to sleep forever. All the handwritings are on the wall; most Westerners cannot see them because they have been brainwashed, and the eyes of their minds have not been trained to see.