The other day in class we learned about the history of reading and the different eras of reading instruction. One era that really stood out to me was the Era of Conditioned Learning (1950-1965). During this era, the classic Dick and Jane children’s books that were often used to teach children to read. These books had a controlled vocabulary and simple sentence structures to help children learn to read.
Reflecting back on when I learned to read in the mid-1990s I was surprised to realize that these Dick and Jane books are very similar to the books I used to learn to read. My mom taught me to read by using BOB books which also had the same controlled vocabulary and simple sentence structures. I remember sitting in my living room around the age of five and my mom and I would read a book a day. I remember that the books were different colors (red, blue and green) that I now believe relate back to the difficulty of the books. Although my five-year-old self had trouble concentrating for long periods of time on these reading books, I did learn to read. Although I did learn the basics of reading from my mom using these books, I do not believe that that was the only way I learned to read.
When I entered kindergarten, my mom specifically made sure I was in a certain kindergarten class because it taught reading and I had already begun to learn to read. And, I did learn continue to learn to read in my kindergarten class and really found a joy for reading. Although I know I was in a kindergarten class that taught reading, I do not remember what we did to specifically learn to read. I do not remember using books like the Dick and Jane or the BOB books. Instead I remember the fun projects we did like planting our kindergarten garden and learning about insects. Reflecting back on my kindergarten experience, I realized that my teacher most likely did have specific activities set up to teach us to read, but they were hidden behind a veil of fun. We learned through playing games and singing songs. Other students I have spoken with claim that they had a similar experience learning to read in during their early years of school. They could not remember sitting there being lectured at. Instead they remember the fun activities and that helped us learn to read. Many of them also remembered their parents teaching them the basics of reading and then this knowledge of reading continued to grow through fun programing once they entered school. I think one of the key parts of learning to read is to learn how to through having fun.
My experience learning to read reminds me a lot of the reading programs that appeared during the Era of Conditioned Learning. Both the books students in the 1950s used to read and the books I used to read were structured very similarly even though they were used years apart. I believe that the fun activities during my early schooling years also helped to provide me with the fundamentals of reading. I believe that these fun activities are what really get children engaged in learning whether it be reading, math or a variety of other skills. These activities keep children engaged and I believe that they should be used to teach children these necessary learning skills.