John Holt and Teaching Reading

As a human, I’ve always loved reading – well, I guess not always, but most of the time. I feel it is one of the things that can free us from the confines of what others want and/or force us to know about the world. Being a good reader is critical to the process of thinking, to the process of learning, and to our need to be able to question those in authoritative roles.

Note: I don’t mean just reading words. I mean all texts – words, audio, images, moving images, etc…

I have degrees in Elementary Education and in Writing and Literature, so my stance is not surprising, but I still think my claim has merit outside and inside any institution. But in my experiences with teaching children and teaching in higher education, I am always surprised at how so many people loathe (and hate sometimes) reading. Why would anyone hate what can free them from the shackles of control?

Bob Marley speaks of “mental slavery.” He tried/tries to educate those who couldn’t/can’t read about what was/is really going on in colonial-controlled Jamaica and in the rest of the world (it continues today). Marley has also said, “We don’t have education; we have inspiration; if I was educated, I’d be a damn fool.” With these, he wants to wake people up to what education means. He was educated, but he did not allow himself to be indoctrinated. There is a huge difference. The education he is addressing comes from outside and is used to control and sway people into thinking in a particular way for another’s agenda. This is extremely dangerous and can destroy what it is to truly be free.

In the following article, John Holt address some of where people’s dislike of reading originates. While you read, pay close attention to how he blends his writing process with his critical thinking process and comes to a new understanding of how children learn to read and how they can learn to love and embrace its power.

How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading”
(Note – You will need to right click and rotate the pdf.)

I’d love to hear what anyone thinks about Holt’s ideas and how his experiment paid off. I really enjoy how he focuses on a skill-set and a life-long passion rather than on content. Huge difference. We can learn skills through just about any content, so ask: Why is content so vehemently controlled while children are learning to read? Shouldn’t children be allowed to choose what they learn about and/or the content of texts while they learn to read?

About Jim Newell

Associate Professor of English, Daytona State College / Thinker / Ponce Inlet Surfer / Improviser / Dad
This entry was posted in Critical Thinking, indoctrination, Reading, solution, Teach the Willing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to John Holt and Teaching Reading

  1. angie says:

    …………………i just wrote something on that dotted line, but it was in the air! I love that idea. I do that with math as well where i have to stop and see the numbers in the air just to get a grip on my task. John Holt gives reason to educate. The hardest part of being a student is judgment, regardless of age. So to find an educator who doesn’t judge so harshly and instead takes the feeling of being judged negatively and flips it into something natural, informative and positively critical..that’s amazing. That’s almost mentor like!

    Maybe non-stop writing is what i need. Better late than never i guess.

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