Misconceptions About Reading Skill Acquisition

Reading is one of the fundamental life skills that one has to learn to survive in the world. Acquiring this skill is a long process and is riddled with many misconceptions. Michael Pressley wrote about some of these misconceptions in his book, “Reading Instruction that Works.” I will be talking about a few of the points that he discussed.

Be mindful of the misconceptions listed below because this can affect the way reading as a skill is taught. The list is not organized in any particular order.

  • The most glaring misconception about reading is that reading is a natural process–that if a child is exposed to an environment conducive to reading, they will somehow pick it up. Reading is not a natural process at all, which is why it has to be taught in the first place. Whereas language acquisition is natural, reading acquisition requires skillful instruction from professionals. Schools and many reading institutions invest resources to hire and train the best teachers to teach reading. So no, exposing a child to literature starting from an early age is not enough.
  • Closely related to the misconception stated above is the assumption that children need some time to learn to read at their own pace. This is actually quite a dangerous assumption because this puts children in a precarious position. Unaddressed reading gaps that started at a young age will only widen as they get older.
  • Reading programs are often marketed as being effective and successful in addressing reading gaps. There are many reading programs out there, but it is not one-size-fits-all. Rather than spending a lot of money on the programs, schools should focus on finding the best teachers–train them so that they can develop sophisticated skills and a diagnostic approach.
  • Times have changed, and so teaching styles and curriculum content have to adapt. Literacy has and always will be an important skill to learn. If anything, teachers need to be equipped to teach children that have much shorter attention spans.
  • In any given reading class, there will be a few students that might be a little behind or are not able to keep up with the rest of the class. To fix this, teachers and schools recommend individualized instruction for a short period of time to help the students “catch up.” These one-on-one sessions are usually effective, but research has shown that these improvements are not sustained when they return to regular classroom instruction.
  • Children will learn what is in the reading curriculum. The curriculum for any subject is designed to provide a roadmap for teachers to determine what to teach their students. Even the best teachers, despite their efforts, can only do so much to ensure that the student has learned the lessons well. Rather than focusing on the lessons stated in the curriculum or syllabus, teachers should pay close attention to the students’ learning.

Final Thoughts

Reading is a fundamental life skill that everyone needs to be able to do. It takes the skills of a well-trained teacher to be able to facilitate this process. To effectively teach reading to children, the teacher has to be creative and knowledgeable about the various teaching methods that will suit the needs of the students. Schools need to provide the necessary training and further education for teachers so that they can help as many students as possible.

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