‘Sunday Is For The Sun, Monday Is For The Moon’
Sunday Is For The Sun, Monday Is For The Moon
Published by Reading Reform Foundation: 2012, New York: 105 pp.
With the relentless, dreary drill-and-kill scenario that has come to dominate too many classrooms in this high-stakes testing environment, it’s a relief to come across an alternative approach that celebrates the joys of reading rather than teaching only for the test (I’d love to ask the authors what they think of the recent “talking pineapple” fracas.)
This is a most welcome antidote that should be read by classroom teachers, literacy specialists and elementary school principal. Slim and slender though this volume appears, it’s packed with passion and persuasion.
The Reading Reform Foundation sends 35 mentors to schools around the city as well as Port Chester and Mt. Vernon in nearby Westchester County. Working with teachers, these specially trained mentors offer guidance on how to teach reading in an effective way to reach a wide variety of students. According to the authors, there are currently 78 teachers in 23 schools who are receiving this training, with a direct impact on 2,000 students.
It’s axiomatic, as the writers observe, that “The degree to which children begin to master literacy sets up many landmarks of success in their lives. Conversely, a failure to master them creates monumental roadblocks. The complications of a child learning to read and write spring from this simple statement: human brains are hard-wired to speak, but not to read and write.”
The promise of the Reading Reform program is that, using little more than “pencils, paper, chalk and books”—and, of course, dedicated and properly trained teachers, children can become enthusiastic, competent and lifelong readers. Using a careful, precisely constructed combination of phonetics and a multisensory approach (like having beginning readers draw sounds and letters in the air before writing them down on paper), students learn what words mean as well.
The authors offer a brief history of the teaching of reading in the United States from Colonial times, including Noah Webster, Horace Mann, and John Dewey—even the classic Dick and Jane Readers so familiar to baby boomers — as well as an examination of the whole language versus phonics debate that I remember from my own children’s educational experience.
As they observe, “Teaching reading continues to spark controversy. The only losers in this battle are the children, who continue to lag behind as adults bicker over what should no longer be points of debate.”
After all, the ultimate goal in this program is simply to acknowledge the fundamental purpose of teaching reading. As they write, “This careful analysis of words, often as new to the teacher as to the students, is the beginning of the intellectual journey that is the birth right of every child. Let us train teachers to clarify their understanding of English so that they can transmit a rational system to their students.” Isn’t that what we all want? #