Learning curves

Ian Johnstone (Letters, 2 January) makes a fundamental mistake when he assumes the acquisition of language and the acquisition of reading skills are the same. One is a natural, innate ability based on exposure at an optimum age and inherently abstract. The other is predominantly concrete and depends on nature and nurture for success.

I learned to ride a bike through the patience of my father gradually letting go of my saddle as I gained confidence. I was taught to drive by the same method, having had the skills broken down into manageable chunks and the basic workings explained to me. My partner needed no such tuition as, being a very practical man, he could work out how to do both for himself. The point is that children come to school with vastly different degrees of understanding of the purposes and processes of reading.

As a teacher I have never felt restrained by fashionable theory and I don't worry whether my methods have names or labels. I just want a range of methods I know will work. Not all children come to school equipped with the skills necessary for learning and they cannot therefore do so purely by "osmosis". Some are talented in areas other than literacy. As professionals it is up to us to remedy this to the best of our ability – not by using prescribed systems, as Mr Johnstone seems to be implying, but by applying our professional judgment based on training and experience.


Saughtonhall Drive