“My child learned his alphabet from the cereal boxes on the breakfast table.” “Isn’t it wonderful the way they can learn their catechism almost entirely by themselves when they are in the second grade?” Teachers have repeatedly heard these two statements from parents. Did the child gradually see the connection between the isolated letters of the alphabet and the grouping of them into a word? Did he learn to associate pictures with words and phrases? Was he able to group the phonetical sounds together into a word? Or did he, seemingly, just learn to read by himself.
Even though word recognition, comprehension, and speed can be improved in an adult this article is written with a view to our children. We are so apt to forget that they were born with the qualities to see, hear, think, and speak – sight for viewing God’s creation, auditory reception to hear the sounds of symbols and interpretation of God’s Word. Understanding and comprehension to interpret God’s revelation and oral expression to proclaim God’s glory as found in the Bible. These abilities have been thwarted and impaired by sin with the result that our children struggle with the mechanics of reading. They become indifferent to efficiency in reading. The pleasure of reading becomes one of self-indulgence. But God’s glory demands that a child must learn to recognize these disabilities and miss-inclinations and strive to overcome them.
By the end of the third grade most children have mastered the mechanics of reading. But the struggle to improve the efficiency of reading has just begun. These include word recognition, vocabulary developments, eye-movements, comprehension, retention, locating information, and organization. Various methods have been used and new or variations of older methods are constantly being tried. One of the current methods is the Joplin plan of reading.
This plan was launched in 1953 by Mr. Roi Wood, superintendent of schools in Joplin, Missouri. He believed pupils should have a good foundation in the English language, and that reading, writing, and spelling were very important. He also believed that the school curriculum should not be centered around the average child but should offer something for the brighter student as well. To assist him in developing his plan he chose Mr. Cecil Floyd, an elementary principal.
Mr. Floyd started out by testing. He found that one fifth-grade class, for example, had only one child who was actually reading at that level. The others were reading all the way from second to eighth grade material. To compromise the teacher was teaching at the fourth grade level and she was not satisfied with the results. So, Mr. Floyd began to do on a bigger scale which many of our teachers have done in their classes. Teachers divide their pupils into poor, average, and good reading groups and then try to spend some time with each group every day especially in the early elementary grades. The result is that the teacher finds herself spending more and more time with the lowest group and not giving enough personal attention to the other groups.
Now instead of each teacher struggling with three separate groups, he took all of the children in a particular school through grades 4 – 6 and after careful screening divided them into reading levels instead of grouping them by grades. Then each teacher had one certain level with which she could devote all of her reading time. The children were not told at which grade level they would be reading but that they would be assigned to reading rooms, where they could make them most progress. Now all the teachers involved teach reading at the same time and when it is reading time the pupils leave their grades and go to reading classes that vary from the second to the ninth grade level. A major characteristic of the Joplin plan is encouraging reading beside the text. Children become interested and improve in reading because they are reading at their particular interest and reading level.
At the end of the first semester of the Joplin plan the pupils were tested again and results showed they had progressed twice as fast as usual and had done a year’s work in one semester. The final test for Mr. Floyd didn’t come until the 500 students graduating into Junior High were tested after being exposed to the program for three years. Their average reading level was ninth grade. The 500 students entering the seventh grade three years before 1950 had averaged only slightly above the seventh grade.
All phases of reading – comprehension, pronunciation, spelling, phonetics, and syllabication – are stressed. Marks are not used but progress reports are sent to the parents. Poor readers didn’t mind reading with younger children because they had the satisfaction of comprehending and enjoying their reading. And in this connection they didn’t received any adverse criticism from parents. Of course, in a school of that size, a great advantage is that there are enough teachers so each can be assigned one level. In our schools a teacher would have to teach two levels and soon the same problems as before would exist.
During the 1958-59 school year Adams purchased two Reading Laboratories, one for Junior High which covers material through the twelfth grades and the other for grades four to six which includes reading material from grades two to nine. Each contains 150 selections which are divided into ten levels. Each child works at his own level and progresses to another level as he improves in speed, vocabulary, and comprehension. It is a form of the Joplin plan. Before beginning the laboratory the children listed their weaknesses and discussed their attitude towards reading. Upon completion of the course, which was given in addition to their regular reading or literature course, each child evaluated his work and again listed any improvements he had made. It was gratifying to read this self-analysis. None claimed to be perfect; none were completely satisfied; each felt the need of continual diligent application to his reading problems.
As parents, what true interest have you shown in your child’s reading? A remark or two about the grade on his report card! The attitude that he certainly learned much more from his former teacher! We should ask ourselves what we have given of ourselves to aid and stimulate our children. Do they ever see you read, look up a word in a dictionary, hear your discussion of some subject gleaned by studying? Do they observe you perusing a religious article or current event as eagerly as one of their comics? Go with them to the library. Select books at their level and interest. Discuss with them what they have read; you will soon discover their power of comprehension. Have them read a portion of Scripture at dinner; be patient as the beginner reads only a verse. How they enjoy a story at bedtime and what a wonderful relationship you are cementing between you and your children. Children unconsciously absorb these considerations
on our part. What a responsibility it is to mold their characters, personalities and habits!
So, as parents and teachers, we work along with our children. But if they realize their need how much easier it is! A child’s reading ability is related to all of their other subjects and is more noticeable as they progress in school. God has created no two alike and each of us have our own limitations and abilities. With God’s blessing and the cooperation of pupils, parents, and teachers we shall continue to stress the fundamentals of reading striving for the ability to read, study, and interpret God’s Word so as to further expound His glory.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 6 August-September 1959

On the evening of October 17 the Protestant Reformed Teachers’ Institute held a Mass Meeting at Fourth Church. One of the features of the program was a panel discussion on the topic: “The Role of the P.T.A. in Our Schools.” The panel consisted of Rev. R. Veldman as moderator, assisted by Miss A. Lubbers, Mrs. J. Veltman, Mr. A. Heemstra, and Mr. D. Lotterman. Mr. F. Hanko and Mrs. J. Moelker were unable to attend.

Fundamental to the discussion was the general history and purpose of a P.T.A. The first P.T.A. was founded in 1897 to coordinate the work of the home and the school in the education of children. It soon branched out to include a study of child growth, character development, school curriculum, and kindergarten. Its main purposes are 1. to promote the welfare of children and youth in home, school, church, and community. 2. to raise the standard of home life. 3. to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth. 4. to bring into closer relation the home and the school; that parent and teachers may co-operate intelligently in the training of the child. 5. to develop between educators and the general public such united efforts as will secure for every child the highest advantages in physical, mental, social, and spiritual education.

Mr. Heemstra showed that as Protestant Reformed parents we must not only inform and educate our children but must mold and develop the spiritual characteristics of the pupil to prepare him to lead a useful Christian life. Such a task requires the combined energies of both parents. By being active together we can develop a much closer mutual relationship between home and school.

Since the Hope Protestant Reformed School has a P.T.A. and the Adams Street School centers its activities mainly around he Mothers Club and The Athletic Association, it was interesting to compare the advantages and disadvantages. The Hope P.T.A. meets four times a year although two of its meetings consist of a program and Open House. Adams also has Open House twice a year with an educational program included. The Athletic Association concerns itself mainly with the school’s athletic program. The purpose of the Mothers Club from Adams compares with that of any P.T.A. It usually has some children participation or a discussion on some phase of education at its monthly meetings. Financial support of the school is maintained outside of their meetings. With both parents attending meetings many vital aspects as child behavior, discipline, reading readiness, the science curriculum, etc., could he discussed.

With separate organizations an overlapping of aims and activities is noticeable. Yet, regular attendance of both parents is frequently a problem in a P.T.A. While if both parents are members of a P.T.A. there is a better understanding of the time, labor, donations, sales, etc. that the mothers are part of.

With the closing of the discussion, the panel realized that the education of a child is directly the responsibility of the parent. The school becomes their agent and they must see that the schools are fulfilling their purpose. That parents and teachers are dependent upon each other for a proper evaluation of a child. That parents must become acquainted with the curriculum and its needs. That parents must help to motivate the curriculum as in geography, history, and science. That the more parents feel their responsibility, the greater their interest will be, and the more eager they will become to attend an organization that combines the interests of the home and the school, the parents and the teacher in the education of children.

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