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Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do about It Paperback – January 7, 1986
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In this book Flesch is a man on a mission. He hopes to save America from Whole Word. To do this, he has to go up against one of the oddest juggernauts the intellectual world has seen: our educators. Monolithic and implacable, they kicked Flesch around pretty good.
Flesch considered his short book to be an expose and a self-help book (it doubles as a phonics manual). I have to mention: I graduated from college and became an author without knowing a single phonics rule, so I'm not convinced that young children need a lot of this stuff. But what they absolutely have to know is that letters stand for sounds. Whole Word tries to hide this insight. (Successfully so, in some locales, for eight decades!) Whole Word says that memorizing 100+ phonics rules is too demanding; and the best alternative is to memorize 100,000+ English words one at a time. Insanity.
Whole Word was the reason Johnny couldn't read. Flesch explains this clearly. I have to believe our educators (the ones at the top) knew the truth. But they kept their sophistry going; they still do when they can get away with it. And so--in a completely unexpected way--this book remains fresh and relevant after 50 years. It has passed into our intellectual pantheon. Read Flesch to understand one of the great scams of the past century.
I used the phonics theories outlined in "Johnny" (with the tapes when they first came out) to teach my children to read -- my oldest daughter was reading by age three, was doing her grandmother's crossword puzzle books by five and was accepted into Harvard at sixteen. Another took a few courses at Harvard and decided to study at Boston College instead; his two younger sisters joining him there. All were high school valedictorians.
I do not know if I was the Johnny of the title -- I am not the boy described in the book (who, was two years older than I, when the technique was applied to him), but I can attest to the fact that it is a book worth reading. Certainly a book which provides a basis for any expectant parent who would like their child to have a real head start in life's basics -- so that they are prepared, have the requisite basics, before they are exposed to their first computer.
I rate this a MUST HAVE for any perspective parent, or grandparent. It does not require a child to have a learning disorder in order for them to profit enormously from this common sense, pragmatic, approach to teaching them a basic skill for life.