March 17, 2013

Regarding the March 15 letters “When third-graders struggle with reading”:

This reminded me of an experience I had in 1947. I was in third grade in California schools with satisfactory grades until November 1946, when my family left to join my military father in post-war Germany.

In February 1947 I happily entered the military dependents school with grades 1 to 6 in one room and 7 to 8 in another. The reading groups, by grade, went to the front of the room for instruction. When it was my turn to read, I struggled.

The teacher asked me to sound out the word. I looked at her blankly. She asked me for the vowel. I looked at her. She asked about consonants. I shook my head. She mentioned syllables and got the same reaction. The teacher told me not to worry but said I should join the first-grade group for the next reading session.

I learned phonics. By June 1947, I was reading the eighth-grade reader, and I was reading and writing in German as well. Thank you to my second third-grade teacher.

Barbara J. Howell, Alexandria