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ABCs of education
Regarding “The Reading Wars ”in education (June 12), effective early reading instruction indeed includes direct and explicit phonemic awareness (sound discrimination) and phonetics (sound-letter correspondence) applied to a limited vocabulary of words. at high frequency. But these alone are insufficient for the transition to fluent academic reading. Such fluency depends not only on the basics, but also on a broad and deep knowledge of vocabulary. Vocabulary learning takes place gradually over time and is usually not sufficiently considered in schools. While a daily newspaper requires about a ninth grade reading level (14-15 years old) The Economist is written at a minimum undergraduate level and requires a good command of the breadth and depth of vocabulary.
Literacy is a complex endeavor. Instruction should be explicit, programmatic, developmentally progressive, and sustained over time as children become proficient in word study and morphology. Good word attack strategies include phonetics (pronounce the word: po-ll-u-tion) and knowledge of Greek and Latin root words (transcribe, transmit, transport). It can also be engaging and fun. Children revel in the sheer joy of documenting and sharing their thoughts and opinions, and their growing sense of agency when they master reading and writing.
Humans are not evolutionary for literacy development (literacy is relatively late, only existing for about 5,000 years). This means reusing primitive models for pattern recognition and categorization; sequences, size and shape, for example, in the service of letter recognition, spelling and arithmetic. From an early age, playing with blocks, puzzles, loose parts, pencils and pencils, scissors and paper helps to lay the foundation for literacy by engaging the hand-brain complex and creating the neuro -circuits and muscle memory for sense and development. Barking at the page without making sense of the print does not guarantee sustained reading comprehension. A balanced approach is needed.
PROFESSOR HETTY ROESSINGH
Werklund School of Education
University of Calgary
As an American naval officer and aviator with a combination of active and reserve service, your article on military reservists caught my attention (“Not your dad’s army”, June 19). Capable and ready reserve forces will remain vital for national and collective defense. There is simply no suitable substitute and any attempt to get around this reality is dangerously foolish.
One of the biggest challenges for military leaders is recruiting trained and readily available personnel across the spectrum of capabilities, from logistics and messaging (an army always runs on their stomachs) to fighter pilots. stealth and cyber warfare.
Relatively few citizens of Western countries (America and Britain are notable here) have served. This lack of direct link with military service will further diminish the interest of young people in the armed forces. It’s a worrying downward spiral, although a return to conscription is unlikely. Significantly increased reservists and capacities may be a practical and necessary means of countering these unfavorable trends.
we Marine Reserve (retired)
Bartleby’s column (June 19) on choosing the best days to work from home reminded me of my work in the Soviet Union in 1976. I bought a chess clock from a store in Moscow, which does not. was not working. When I told my Soviet colleagues about it, one of them wanted to know what day of the week it was made?
At that time, devices left the factory with a ticket indicating the day of the week they were assembled. Savvy shoppers checked those tickets and knew how to avoid products made on a Monday or Friday: Friday workers thought of the weekend, and Monday workers hungover. Quality products, if any, were likely to have been made on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Abandon colonial ties
Your Kenneth Kaunda obituary (June 26) was informative and fair. However, the founding president of Zambia may have found the photo you used of him wearing a tie insulting.
In 1968, the house in Chilenje, Lusaka, where the Kaunda family had lived during part of the struggle for independence, contained an exhibit depicting its history. As director of the Zambia Monuments Commission, I accompanied the then chairman on a tour. Seeing a photo of him similar to the one in your obituary, he said to me, “I remember that occasion. It was the last time I wore a tie. I resolved that once Zambia was free I would never do it again.
As far as I know, he never did.
PROFESSOR DAVID PHILLIPSON
Skipton, North Yorkshire
Facts and fictions
Your critique of Alberto Angela’s biography of Cleopatra and of the phenomenon of imaginative writing of “history” (“Missing Pieces”, June 12) raises an intriguing question of intellectual property law. Copyright protects creations of the mind, but it does not protect historical facts. So what happens when a historian presents the fruit of his imagination as fact? Are there any copyrights on such creations?
The Federal Court of Canada considered this issue recently in a lawsuit where the author of a historical book was accused of infringing copyright in an earlier book purporting to tell the “real story”. Both books were about the Black Donnellys, an Irish Catholic immigrant family notoriously involved in a heated feud that led to the murder of five of its members by a mob in 1880. The heirs of the author of the original book argued that the last book was copied fictitious embellishments in the original. The author of the last book argued that he assumed the embellishments were factual because they were credibly presented as such and that, since he was using different words to tell the same story, he could not be charged with justly copyright infringement.
The court agreed, ruling that copyright did not protect plausible assertions of fact, no matter how imaginative they later turned out. The court distinguished this from tales like “Gulliver’s Travels” or “The Blair Witch Project,” where representations that the story is “true” are clearly just for fun.
It is a sensible decision. After all, as your reviewer noted, this whole “story” has only ever been what others, like Tacitus or Herodotus, say happened, whether it actually happened or not.
I don’t see anything wrong with writers using their imaginations to make classic stories readable. As Pliny the Younger observed in ancient Rome: “There is no shortage of readers and listeners; it’s up to us to produce something worth writing and hearing.
This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the title “On Literacy, Military Reserves, Working Days, Kenneth Kaunda, Historical Fiction”