You’re not going to believe this, but you know that Reading First program? Well, it’s crooked. Who’da thunk it?
I guess I missed this earlier piece.
Anyhow, this morning’s article reminded me that a book on the same subject of reading instruction, Let’s Kill Dick and Jane, by the Chicago Reader’s Harold Henderson, got a glowing notice from Paul Beston in the Wall Street Journal last week:
Blouke Carus and his wife, Marianne, Americans with strong German roots and a familiarity with the exacting standards of the German gymnasium, read Flesch’s book and formed Open Court in 1962. Together with a small band of dedicated educational theorists and consultants, they created innovative materials with the goal of educating the American masses as rigorously as the elites of Europe. Providing both a history of this remarkable company and a withering portrait of the education culture, Mr. Henderson’s book is more compelling than any lay reader could reasonably expect.
In connection with reading instruction, those of us with a more literary turn-of-mind might think of this passage from Chapter 4 of Nabokov’s Speak Memory:
I learned to read English before I learned to read Russian. My first English friends were four simple souls in my grammar — Ben, Dan, Sam and Ned. There used to be a great deal of fuss about their identities and whereabouts — “Who is Ben?” “He is Dan,” “Sam is in bed,” and so on. Although it all remained rather stiff and patchy (the compiler was handicapped by having to employ — for the initial lessons at least — words of not more than three letters), my imagination somehow managed to obtain the necessary data. Wan-faced, big-limbed, silent nitwits, proud in the possession of certain tools (”Ben has an axe”), they now drift with a slow-motioned slouch across the remotest backdrop of memory; and, akin to the mad alphabet of the optician’s chart, the grammar-book’s lettering looms again before me.
Speaking of the creator of Pnin, did you read Nab biographer Brian Boyd’s article on literary criticism and biology in the autumn issue of The American Scholar? A little dippy, I thought. But the whole issue is of unusual interest, with stories by Steven Millhauser and Dennis McFarland, a memoir by Mary Gordon, an interesting piece on Lincoln’s writing style, and a whole lot of other stuff. The Scholar — I used to like this pub, but I haven’t read it regularly since the Epstein era, and not at all since Fadiman left. What’s the deal with no website?
And Boyd’s essay, just to continue the strange digressions in thisÂ post, reminded me of this line from Eric Jacob’s bio of Kingsley Amis:
Most people reading English [at Oxford], Amis wrote in his Memoirs, treated literature “as a pure commodity, a matter for evasion and fraud, confidence trickery to filch a degree.”