Our topic for this meeting was "The History of Language Science" presented by John Joldersma, a member of FAoWM, reading specialist, retired school teacher and rock hound.He
was gracious enough to pinch hit for us and prepare his
presentation on short notice due to our original speaker having to cancel regarding a family member's health concerns.Joldersma
focused on reading for his
presentation, noting that it is the only thing we have invented as a species that cannot be found elsewhere in the Kingdom Animalia.Tool use, art, fairly complex body language and oral communication systems, etc. all have analogues in other species' productions.And it is quite a recent event for our species, relative to evolutionary time and even regarding other cultural accoutrements we have.Of course, as it is with the problems of fossilization for any abundant representation of soft- bodied fauna, we also have scanty records for any reading/writing system before harder, more archival formats were used.However, Dr. Joldersma
said that the use of written communication probably only goes back some 8,000 years or so, where we have examples of baked clay tablets.
...Joldersma, who has taught in various places-some quite rough, and received his doctorate in reading, is quite frustrated with the way that reading education has failed to advance and how it actually incorporates reading fluency debacles into the teaching process.
Another educational problem Dr. Joldersma
railed against in his
presentation was the emphasis on phonics.This too breaks the back of the pace of "natural readers" or becoming one.It is word comprehension, he
stressed, not mental enunciation of words that is important to rapid reading with effectiveness.One can learn to sound out the words at an unnatural pace but have no idea of what the body of text slogged through was actually about.He
also showed us how words with the same spelling but different meaning can affect our reading comprehension using a paragraph fraught with many such examples of homonyms embedded within.Readers who have focused on word meaning are not arrested in their pace when reading double meaning words because the processing is rapid enough as the eyes flow across the text to flip the word to the correct context without any conscious awareness of this feat.This is not the case when using a phonics-sound- by- sound-- approach. Dr. Joldersma
also talked of the actual science of seeing and processing visual information; the route taken as light and information reaches the eye and is computed in the brain.He
noted that cognitive psychology began in 1967, which undertook as part of the research, to understand eye movement and when experiments were conducted to take actual recordings of the eyes as they worked to gather information.
The 1950's were where the next big push for speed- reading came about but the fruits of the research done then, Joldersma
lamented, never made it into the elementary schools.
Again Dr. Joldersma
opposed the emphasis on phonics that is standard in education-resulting in what he
referred to as mere "word calling" rather than understanding of the material being read.He
said that President Bush, in his
"No Child Left Behind" campaign pushes the "Phonics for Everyone" concept to the detriment of potentially good readers.
opined that our educational system is as if it was imposed on us by our worst enemy.
This is the sort of reader "that was discovered, not made by an Evelyn Wood," Dr. Joldersma
said.Interestingly, the reader at this level is not actively aware of the comprehension of the text until he
is asked about it!
said that people build up connections in the brain for certain types of literature, allowing material that one individual can read at a break-neck pace to be one that another is hindered in, even if the basic words are in each person's vocabulary.The other person, conversely, may be able to read in another sort of literary niche at the rate of the 1st person, who now finds himself slowed a bit more.
As in the ease of foreign language acquisition, there is apparently a cut off point where if swift methods for reading based on comprehension skills are not taught, they will not likely be learned without great effort on the part of the individual.The age is about 12.Dr. Joldersma
, who has worked overseas and in a wide variety of settings in the U.S. in education, said that socioeconomic class differences impact upon the level of readers produced generally.He
taught in Korea and found that Koreans generally read at about 500 w.p.m., contrasted to Americans who read generally at about 200-250 w.p.m. Korean is a phonetically- based language-moreover the shape of the character is iconic for the tongue shape.The reason why this does not refute Joldersma's
earlier declarations is that English is not phonetically- based.If it were, then the "Hooked on Phonics" approach would be a wise one, and reading speed would indeed likely increase under this method.Also, in referencing other countries and cultures, he
noted that the orientation of the text (up-down, right-to-left, or what have you) has nothing to do with reading speed for the native of that culture.
said that the child should learn a minimum of 75 words before s/he touches phonics.
This presentation was both entertaining and informative and, itself, had a lively pace.Dr. Joldersma
, by the way, produced all the facts and figures, anecdotes and research results provided to us throughout this information- rich presentation from memory-referring not to any written information directly.