Saturday, August 9, 2008

This time on reading

Sydney blogger and writer, Sacha Molitorisz, has been reading Parentonomics. In this post on literacy he quotes my thoughts on the subject:

All the while, I've had the words of a Melbourne academic bouncing about my noggin.

"What is the deal with all the reading?" asks Joshua Gans, a professor of management at the Uni of Melbourne's Business School. A father-of-three, Gans has written a book called Parentonomics, which is out next week. In in, he looks at parenthood through an economist's eyes, which leads to some interesting insights.

He writes:

"It seems that as soon as we work out a child can see, we thrust letters in their face, read them books carefully pointing out the words so they know we're not making it up, and then, when they get to school, we count down the days to literacy.

"I am not an innocent bystander in all this fuss. We did everything we could to get Child No. 1 to read. When she was just two (now this may sound competely ridiculous, but it wasn't at the time), we labelled everything in the house using the pretty 'Comic Sans' font. Visitors were astonished but soon appreciated the fact that they could easily find the bathroom. It was at least three more years before Child No. 1 made much of the signs."

Gans argues that a lot of time and energy is wasted by overzealous parents pushing their kids into literacy prematurely.

"Learning to read is excruciating," Gans writes. "It is a tough activity and, what is more, the case for expecting kids to be reading at six rather than by eight is not particularly strong. In Scandinavian countries, they don't begin formal training until the age of seven."

Which brings us back to irony.

"Now I am not one to rail against books," he writes. "I'm an academic after all and I guess I am writing one now."

What he does next is examine the way literacy is taught and promoted in our education system. According to Gans, it's not all good. At this point, I don't really have much experience of how literacy is taught in our schools _ although I don't remember any particular dramas in my own case. Apart from the lingering curse of being a dodgy punner. (Sorry about the title.)

This reflects some of the stuff I was saying around the time of the 2020 Summit.

Molitorisz has his own book on parenting entitled (and I can't believe no one got that before), From Here to Paternity.