Phonological Processes in Literacy: A Tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman

By Susan A. Brady; Donald P. Shankweiler et al. | Go to book overview
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16
On the Value of Simple Ideas in Reading Instruction

Charles A. Perfetti University of Pittsburgh

Could reading really be this simple? Could it be that reading is simply a matter of transposing the squiggles of the writing system into the meaningbearing elements of the language system? And is this transposing simply the decoding of print into speech? The answer to these questions is so obviously "yes" that it's hard sometimes to imagine how we -- researchers and reading educators -- have managed to make things so much more complex than this.

Imagine a fluent speaker of Low Nept (spoken in the lowlands of Neptune) who comes to learn to read English. His lesson is offered with all good wishes by a well-intentioned reading pedagogue who gives him a copy of a good book, say Chomsky's ( 1980) Rules and Representations or Eco's ( 1989) Foucault's Pendulum -- in other words, a book that counts as good literature, rather than the basal readers that are the subject of much lamentation. ("Dick and Jane" readers, their deleterious effects on learning readers having been widely noted, would be avoided by any well-informed and well-intentioned pedagogue.)

Assume our learner chooses the Chomsky ( 1980) and begins with "I would like to explore a number of issues relating to human cognitive capacities and the mental structures that serve as the vehicles for the exercise of these capacities" (p. 3). How will he learn to read this sentence? Well, the teacher could produce in either Nept or in English the following utterance: "This sentence says <>." The teacher's utterance, delivered with feeling, might then be mimicked by the Nept speaker. This might demand a bit of nonlinguistic prodding, such as pointing to the words while speaking

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