Found in 11 comments on Hacker News
asimeqi · 2018-02-13 · Original thread
I think this is the thread where I should recommend the best book to teach reading: Let's Read, a Linguistic Approach

I got the recommendation here in HN and I used the book with my 2 daughters. I started with my first daughter when she was 4.5 years old. I started with my second daughter at an older age because she was showing a slight case of dyslexia. It took 2 years to finish the book with each of them. After they were done they could read everything. My second daughter is 9 and is almost done with Oliver Twist. Read this comment by tokenadult:

tokenadult · 2013-12-06 · Original thread
There are better sources than that on precocity in young children. I'll have to find some references for you. (They may not be found in time for the edit window of this comment, so feel free to write me off-forum if you would like those.)

In general, early reading is less remarkable (in English) than people think it is, because with the right materials[1] English can be seen by a young learner as a rather consistent writing system that is not insuperably hard to decode.

That said, my four homeschooled children, the first two of whom are strongly bilingual in Chinese and English, having lived in Taiwan in early childhood, were early but not strikingly precocious readers, and all my children were learning a lot of other things besides reading in their early childhood, of which chess was perhaps more conspicuously precocious than reading. Earliness is less important than long-term solid development of skill, and it sounds like the parents of some of the HN participants here who have personally observed examples of very precocious reading were well aware of that.


tokenadult · 2013-09-02 · Original thread
I see that the submitted article, and many of the interesting comments in this busy thread, relate to the issue of the bizarre spelling patterns of English. As a native speaker of General American English (the dialect of English I recommend to foreign learners of English ;) ), I have two perspectives on this.

1) As a parent of English-speaking children, I thought it was VITAL that they learn well the main consistent sound-symbol correspondence rules of English spelling. (This is called "phonics" in the context of teaching reading to native speakers of English.) My favorite book recommendation for this is Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach, by linguist Leonard Bloomfield and lexicographer Clarence Barnhart. All four of my children learned to read well with this book. The book is now in a second edition

prepared by a second generation of the Barnhart family. Learning to read with an approach like this is dialect-friendly (the book is specifically organized to take into account dialect differences, at least within American English) and systematic for understanding what is consistent in English spelling and what is not.

2) As for spelling reform in English, I think it was HN user gnosis who once shared a very interesting link

about English spelling reform by a commentator who knows linguistics well. English spelling reform is often desired by native speakers of the language, but it is a tough problem. See what the link has to say about various proposals for spelling reform.

tokenadult · 2012-10-17 · Original thread
Ben, I didn't realize you had a child of just that age. Please allow me to recommend to you and to other HN participants who surf by who are parents of children learning to read the best--bar none--approach to initial reading instruction in English for native speakers of English. It has worked for all four of my children, including the three who spent significant parts of their childhood in a mostly Chinese-speaking environment (reducing their exposure to English speech and English printed materials). The book Let's Read, a Linguistic Approach

by Leonard Bloomfield (an eminent linguist and pioneer of new methods of teaching hard-to-learn languages) and Clarence L. Barnhart (a lexicographer) has now been revised by Cynthia A. Barnhart and Robert K. Barnhart (I presume they are the original co-author's children). I used the first edition, and can recommend it UNRESERVEDLY. The first edition appears to no longer be in print, and some Amazon reviewers say they prefer the first edition, but the second edition, currently available, surely is better than the great mass of school materials used for English reading instruction. How I used the book is to set a goal of somewhere between one lesson a day and six or seven pages a day, and then read each lesson out loud to my child, with my child then reading the lesson back to me, with adaptation earlier in the book to do the reading and reading back a sentence at a time, and near the end of the book for the child to read by himself or herself without me reading first. All my children are strong readers who love to read. You'll find that this book, under Bloomfield's pedagogical influence, makes good use of spaced repetition of the key sound-symbol correspondences in Engish. But this is reading connected text, rather than just looking at flash cards, and the stories are remarkably interesting for their carefully graded vocabulary.

More details if you like. My main online involvement in the early 1990s was discussion of optimal reading instruction approaches for United States schools, but now I've discovered that mathematics education needs at least as much help, and have shifted focus to that. But I could provide (old) links to rationale for this approach if you like, and anyway an ounce of inexpensive prevention is worth a pound of expensive cure when helping a child's initial reading instruction prevents future reading and spelling difficulties. And kudos to you for continuing to read aloud to your child as he learns to read. Not reading to children beyond school age is one of the big missed opportunities in many middle-class families.

Aside to other participants: I'm wondering how many people who have used flash cards for foreign language learning have put their languages to the test in a country where those languages are spoken. I have studied many languages (I think there is a partial list in my user profile), and what I have observed over and over is how each language maps reality in a different way, so that ones rarely correspond one-to-one in the manner expected by flashcards. I much preferred learning to read Chinese, for example, by using the excellent Chinese Reader series by John DeFrancis

through which I first learned about Bloomfield's approach to foreign language teaching. (DeFrancis was a student of Bloomfield's.)

tokenadult · 2012-02-05 · Original thread
I know counterexamples. My second son read Oliver Twist at no more than sixth-grade age (as I just verified by asking him what Dickens he remembers reading). We homeschool all our children, and we make sure that they learn to read thoroughly.

Then they are at liberty to read whatever they want, whenever they want. Fitting today's generation of readers, they all read a lot of "high fantasy" (Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, etc.) and plenty of nonfiction on favorite subjects (e.g., mathematics, biology, history) but they are also well able and willing to read classic novels. I do get the impression, from observing what children in our community check out when they visit the local library, and from observing how infrequently some of them visit the local library, that Dickens is considered challenging reading in today's world. See also

for the suggestion that Oliver Twist is a senior-high-level book, which would be surprising to any of my four children.

tokenadult · 2010-09-24 · Original thread
To add to the great comment above, especially for the parents here considering instructing their children on the formalities of reading, make sure your children learn the sound-symbol correspondences of English (or whatever language's) writing system and skills for pronouncing unfamiliar words first seen in print. All four of my children, now avid readers, got a lot of help from the book Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach by Leonard Bloomfield and Clarence Barnhart.

I like the stories in that book, too, especially the very last story.

tokenadult · 2010-09-02 · Original thread
A good book for developing reading skill and getting kids hooked on reading (it has worked for all four of my children) is Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach.

tokenadult · 2009-09-03 · Original thread
Press release on the same study:

(I looked this up to get a better idea which countries were considered, and which were not.)

Excerpt from a good book on dyslexia by some of the leading researchers in the field:</a><p>Here's another good link on dyslexia:<p><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a><p>Here's a link to a forthcoming book with practical advice to parents about dyslexia:<p><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a><p>My overall comments on the submitted article and the claim in its title are:<p>a) Yes, the English penchant for preserving etymological spellings from multiple languages (especially Norman French) makes learning reading of English more daunting than learning to read a language with a reformed, consistent spelling such as Spanish. But linguists have applied thoughtful effort to improving reading instruction in English, and it is possible with the best materials, for example Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach by Leonard Bloomfield and Clarence Barnhart,<p><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a><p>to make great progress in reading English independently in less than one year of instruction. (It's regrettable that more schools don't use superior books like Let's Read for initial reading instruction.) Part of the difficulty that pupils have in school in English-speaking countries comes from suboptimal reading instruction rather than from inherent features of the current English writing system.<p><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a><p>b) The study didn't test "European languages" exhaustively. It may be that there are some languages in Europe that present similar difficulties. Certainly there are languages in other regions of the world (including languages in the Indo-European language family) that present tougher challenges to primary-age learners learning to read, although those learners often overcome those challenges.<p>c) For overall adult performance in reading, exposure matters, and for second-language learners of English, the network effects of having huge numbers of users of English (both first-language users and second-language users) all over the world ensures that most second-language learners still reach quite an adequate level of reading proficiency in English, which indeed in many cases exploits the similarity of English spelling to spellings from foreign languages. English gains its position as the world interlanguage honestly and will not be challenged as the world interlanguage by any other language in the lifetime of anyone reading this message.

tokenadult · 2009-05-07 · Original thread
I think it would be enlightening if you could provide the textbooks you buy.

Interpreting that as a request to name the textbooks I find useful, I'll do that here.

Elementary mathematics:

Primary Mathematics


Miquon Math

Secondary mathematics:

The Gelfand Correspondence Program series


Basic Mathematics by Serge Lang


The Art of Problem Solving expanded series

When a student has those materials well in hand, it is time to work on AMC and Olympiad style problem solving,

and also the best calculus textbooks, such as those by Spivak or Apostol.

Elementary reading:

By far the best initial reading text is

Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach

but there are many other good reading series, including

Primary Phonics


Teach Your Child to Read in Ten Minutes a Day

(I devote more time than that to reading instruction, typically, because I use multiple materials)

and quite a few others. There is more junk than good stuff among elementary reading materials, alas.

tokenadult · 2009-04-26 · Original thread
I'm homeschooling four children, and describe myself as an eclectic homeschooler with strong unschooling tendencies. My youngest is now six years old, and she spends a lot of each day drawing, building Lego constructions, doing kitchen chores with her mom, playing with her brothers, talking walks outdoors (with various members of the family keeping her company), or occasionally watching videos, some educational, and some not. She is close to being an independent reader. I give her a reading lesson each school weekday, and a math lesson. (My favored materials are Bloomfield and Barnhart's Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach

and the Miquon Math


So I guide my children's activities, but they have a lot of free time and a lot of control over how they spend their time. I like promoting QUIET activities like drawing and reading, because much of my work is done at home.

tokenadult · 2008-12-26 · Original thread
"Ph.D.s in education have put a great deal of effort into figuring out how to teach that skill to the kids who Just Don't Get It."

Actually, Ph.D.s in education have done a generally appalling job of researching how children learn to read. There are a few happy exceptions, but I would look more to Ph.D.s in linguistics or psychology (harder disciplines, and more evidence-based, than education in general) for advice on how to teach children to read.

Here are some sound resources on reading instruction:

So, yes, the problem with introducing programming into the K-12 curriculum is

a) figuring out how to teach it well to learners of that age of varying backgrounds and interest levels, and

b) figuring out what else gets crowded out of the curriculum.

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