I used to love the Cryptoquotes in the daily newspaper—simple substitution ciphers of famous quotations. I admit I cheated sometimes by knowing the quotation after solving one or two words. I still like them; it’s just the newspapers have disappeared.
Before children learn to read, they learn to speak. They come to recognize the sounds of speech, imitate them, and begin to manipulate those sounds into words. Those who study such things call this Phonemic Awareness. They learn to read by discovering that the sounds they make can be represented by abstract symbols.
We call those symbols—letters. There are twenty-six of them which make forty-four sounds. A letter, like a number, means nothing in and of itself. It is an abstract idea that is assigned meaning only when connected to something real. The letters of the alphabet have meaning only in that they represent sounds.
When the idea that letters correspond to sounds, and the relationship between a letter and a sound is discovered—we crack the code to reading. It’s called Phonics and our schools have abandoned it. That’s why Johnny can’t read.
The more fluent in code-cracking a child becomes the better they read, and the more they comprehend. This code cracking opens up the door to all that is known and all that can be imagined. The potential is there for the beginner to turn learning to read into reading to learn.
People come hard-wired with curiosity. We want to know things. Reading makes knowing possible—at least knowing for ourselves and problem-solving. What good does Googling something do if the person can’t read what’s on the screen? Perhaps that is why Alexa and Siri were born—to save us from reading for ourselves and descent back into the dark ages of spoon-fed knowledge.