Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Myths, Storytelling, and Grouping: Literacy for the 21st Century

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Myths, Storytelling, and Grouping: Literacy for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

This is another diverse collection of what I hope you consider to be interesting texts for professional development. Variety seems to be inherent in this collection, as each book offers good information on topics of concern to literacy educators: balanced reading methodology, story performance, a grouping rationale and strategies, and debunking myths surrounding the reading process and instruction. Each text resonated with my questions and issues pertinent to teaching reading, so perhaps there is something here to satisfy your curiosity and stimulate your thinking as well.

Two "new" authors (I believe these are their first books) are balanced with two authors who are well-published in our professional literature. R. Craig Roney writes of his experience in teaching storytelling and ties his plethora of techniques to literacy and learning theories. Greta K. Nagel argues for a grouping strategy that is the outgrowth of her dissertation research. The esteemed Frank B. May draws on his many years' experience to "unravel the seven myths of reading," and Gail E. Tompkins gives us another comprehensive, attractive text that should be a resource for many years to come.

Beginning with the myths, then proceeding to storytelling and grouping, and finishing with suggestions for a balanced approach to Literacy for the 21st Century these books offer something for everyone. Recommended and suggested for professional libraries at home and/or school, we are indeed fortunate to have the diversity of ideas these texts offer for our professional scrutiny.


According to the researcher and scholar in reading pedagogy from Portland State University, Frank. B. May, there are seven common misconceptions about reading. Why seven? In folklore, three and seven are touted as magical numbers (remember three characters and events, the "seventh son of the seventh son?"). Seven is a handy number to remember, so with the folklore connection to myth, and the psychological ease with which we remember seven entities, the title is apt. He implies that these misconceptions are the most pervasive in our society today, although he really doesn't explain why seven came to the fore or that he entertained a number other than seven. How these seven were culled from many, we don't know; moreover, whether or not these mistaken ideas are powerful enough to be called myths should be questioned by the reader of this text. However, these are provocative assumptions that could generate questions about the way we describe literacy.

May's myths are these:

We learn to read mostly by learning words.

Poor readers make the most "mistakes," and teachers should correct those "mistakes" immediately.

All phonics methods are equally effective.

Phonological awareness training is not necessary. Reading novices get the same thing from early phonics training.

Reading comprehension is nothing more or less than the ability to answer questions about text.

It is up to the student to learn to read well, regardless of text quality and difficulty. If he'd just try harder he would succeed.

Reading and learning to read are much more cognitive than motivational.

Each of the seven chapters in this slight paperback text (198 pages with 5 appendices) is devoted to discussing and refuting a myth. Chapters are divided into five parts: Part A is always an explanation of how these ideas became so powerful in our educational systems and how they are acted upon today. From parents, politicians, and practices, examples are drawn to demonstrate the erroneous nature of the myth. Part B presents research that refutes the myth. For example, in the second chapter (see second myth, above) May details eight research studies which compare and analyze the mistakes good and poor readers make. …

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