Book Review

Simply Read! previously referred to as Reading Is More Than Phonics. Vera Goodman.

ISBN 0-9699938-0-3. Softcover. 76 pp.

Reviewed by Barbara A. TIlig-Aviles.

Amidst the rhetoric and confusion surrounding the phonics versus whole language debate, a voice calls for a reasoned and practical approach to helping children to read. Vera Goodman, in a book written as a guide for parents, describes in simple yet elegant style key concepts regarding how children learn and how parents can support and guide their children’s literacy development.

Simply Read begins by providing a holistic view of the learning process then quickly connects the information to learning to read. According to Goodman, “The experiences of the child, the behaviors of the family and the expectations of the society in which they live are all part and parcel of learning to read” (p. 1). As literacy professional, I was especially impressed with the focus on the affective factors that can nurture or discourage a reader. Goodman reminds parents that what they do and say in the presence of their children about reading or learning and schools in general can affect the perceptions and confidence children have in themselves as readers. She suggests instead that statements like ” ‘You should hear the good story Jennifer can tell to accompany the pictures in this book’ build positive images of reading and books” (p. 3).

Each of the seven other short (5-7 pages), readable chapters in the text tackles other important aspects of the reading process. Included are such topics as the role of phonics in the process of decoding words, spelling and sight words, suggestions for providing useful and instructive feedback to children, and the importance of finding the right literature for beginning or reluctant readers. The fourth chapter contains some wonderful exercises to help parents experience how difficult it is to sound out a word that is unfamiliar or to comprehend a written passage without sufficient background knowledge. The last chapter includes a list of activities that are fun for children and supports the idea that the joys of reading should be celebrated.

“I would have liked to have this book to give to my son and daughter-in-law several years ago when my grand-daughter, at the end of first grade, was labeled a non-reader. Liz appeared to be less skilled than her older sister had been at that age, and had little confidence in herself as a reader when she came to us for a summer visit. The message from her parents had been to work on her reading with Grandma and Pop. After a week or so of shared reading sessions with highly predictable books and lots of comments like “Wow, when did you learn to read?” Liz was back on track. Vera Goodman’s book could have further desensitized the situation and eliminated the idea of a “reading problem.”

The important messages in Simply Read! needs to be heard not only by parents, but by teachers, administrators, and other members of the community at large. This is a book that should be highly visible in every local library, presented as a gift to new school board members, and recommended to parents of beginning or reluctant readers at back-to-school nights and parent conferences everywhere.