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RRF Newsletter 54 back to contents
Book Review Conquer Dyslexia by Felicity Craig. One-to-one publications, 2004. ISBN 0 9520937 1 5 pbk.Mona McNee

Mrs Craig has worked in the field of teaching reading for many years, and her descriptions of the anguish of reading failure are accurate and telling. Her title is well chosen, especially when supplemented, as it is on the front cover, with the phrase ‘without losing the gift’ – I, too, think that many dyslexics have special gifts, for example in painting and engineeering, and other writers who have called dyslexia a ‘gift’ have been James Evans (1983) and Ronald D. Davies (1994).

Another good feature of Mrs Craig’s book is her encouragement to parents (and untrained people generally) to ‘have a go’: she does not build up a mystique to corner the field for ‘experts’. She starts, rightly, from the belief that all children can learn to read, and she aims, again rightly, at having children read from the printed word alone

One feels, however, that she moves from observation to interpretation of children’s thought-processes in a way which sometimes suggests a grown-up’s conjectures about what is going on in the child’s mind rather than what may actually be going on. An infant reading ‘pin’, then ‘pig’, is hardly operating a Venn diagram as she suggests. The workings of an infant brain are wonderful but not deliberate.

She seems to be one of those who can see words in her mind’s eye. I cannot. She heartily supports phonics, along with shared reading and sight words. But Bonnie Macmillan has discredited a mix of methods. I am unable to see eye to eye with Mrs Craig in her support of, for instance, Huey, whom I see as the father of reading failure and Liz Waterland, whose Read with me echoes Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman. She is totally convinced by Glenn Doman’s Teach your baby to read, and I am happy for children to learn to read as early as possible. But since Dr Doman has had plenty of publicity, why is reading failure still such a problem in America?

The book contains interesting, useful and even amusing advice for teaching maths.

This book would be useful for student teachers and others who are addressing their minds to what works in teaching reading. It will make them look hard at evidence around them and think, ‘Is this right? Does this match what I see?’

As with all ways of teaching reading, we need test figures. East Lothian is using Mrs Craig’s materials. What is the average reading quotient (or age) there after one school year? Two school years? An average reading age a good year above chronological age is now being achieved in various schools, with pupils then going from strength to strength until they ‘hit the ceiling’ of tests. What is Mrs Craig’s average improvement ratio for strugglers? Is it at least 3 (a rise of 3 months of reading age in one calendar month)?

Mona McNee




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