The first three days of the summer institute on literacy at Fordham University have been geek heaven. If you are thrilled by discussions of effective practices that inspire students towards becoming life long readers and empowering teachers with the skills necessary to make that dream a reality, then Pope Auditorium at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus is the place to be.
The opening speaker was Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams from Brown University. Due to the fact that I am teaching at the institute I had the opportunity to speak briefly with her and when I said who I was she said he had heard of me (cue to geek smile).
During her talk she discussed her involvement with the PBS show Between the Lions and how it supports emerging literacy development in young children. (The title of the show refers to the two lions that adorn the entrance to the main branch of the NYC public library.) Among the shows many features is a decodable text short called "Fun with Chicken Jane" which of course is a twist on the old decodable "Fun with Dick and Jane" texts. You gotta appreciate this wacky sense of humor. At least I do as it is right up my alley ladies and germs.
In 1967 Jeanne Chall wrote of The Great Debate in this country about the controversy surrounding reading instruction. She wrote "Do children learn better with a beginning method that stresses meaning (which became a whole language approach) or with one that stresses learning the code? (a phonics based approach). We are finally realizing that there is no need to choose one or the other - children need both to become successful readers. And successful means comprehending what is read. For without meaning, reading is just stringing together a bunch of sounds. I may be able to do that when I 'read' Spanish but I have no idea of the meaning behind what I am saying.
Dr. Adams also stressed the importance of children learning their ABCs as early as possible. The foundation must be in place before it can be built upon. I am not 'sold' on everything that she advised but she was certainly inspiring.
I had planned to write about the first three speakers in this post but am sensing that they deserve their own posts. I am also sensing that you, gentle reader, are probably letting out a sigh of relief.
See, I told you - I am a geek when it comes to researching literacy.