In this episode of Progressively Incorrect, I am joined by Dr. Pamela Snow. Dr. Snow is a professor of cognitive psychology at the School of Education at La Trobe University in Melbourne, and an absolute legend of the Science of Language and Reading.
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One of the most contentious topics in reading, besides how to teach it, is when to start teaching it. On one extreme, you have people who wish to protect childhood by delaying reading instruction for as long as possible, often invoking the age of 7 as an ideal starting point because that’s when they start in Finland. It’s only at the age of 7, or perhaps whenever the child first begins to show an interest in reading, that children are deemed “ready” for formal literacy skills training. Whether this formal training consists of systematic, explicit instruction or a balanced literacy approach is yet another topic of contention, but you can imagine that the same people who wish to prevent the imposition of “direct” or “structured” methods early in education are often in opposition to these methods even when the children turn 7.
Of course, I’m often told that there are people out there who believe in the opposite extreme; that we should be worried about all those pre-schools and pre-kindergartens that are forcing young children to sit in rows completing phonics worksheets. As someone who has visited dozens of early childhood centers, and who has several family members who are veteran early-childhood educators, I’m not sure that this second approach even exists, while the first seems to be widespread. To resolve some of this debate, I thought it would be great to bring Dr. Snow on the show to take us through what the research says about early childhood development of language and literacy skills. This episode is chock full of insights about how to best prepare and transition students from pre-literacy experiences to formal literacy instruction, and I was super honored to land such an important advocate for children and teachers on this show. Have a listen!
Dr. Snow’s Blog
Article: Psychosocial Adversity in Early Childhood and Language and Literacy Skills in Adolescence: The Role of Speech-Language Pathology in Prevention, Policy, and Practice
Article: SOLAR: The Science of Language and Reading