Recently tompeters.com posted a new Cool Friend interview with former Microsoft executive John Wood. Wood left a cushy job to fulfill his mission of changing the world. How did he do that? By founding an organization that would help educate children. It all starts with learning how to read. One child at a time.
This is a conversation I joined a long time ago and for which I am extremely passionate.
Back in 1988 I came to the Philadelphia area to work with brain-injured children. As part of that work, I used a methodology created by Glenn Doman more than 50 years ago so parents could teach their children how to read at an early developmental stage. That book and the awareness that its content engendered created a life-changing moment.
In order to teach a brain-injured child how to be normal, Doman and his staff spent years learning what it means to develop normally. The result of those early years is compiled in what Doman called The Developmental Profile; a picture of the neurological development stages of the brain from birth to 72 months, which is when it completes the greatest development. From stem, which controls the reflexes that save our lives, to the most sophisticated work we do with input from the cortical areas, Doman and his staff discovered that there are three key areas of input and three key areas of output. These are the executive summary of our functions and the single most important tool for the parents of a newborn child.
Visual ability, as it turns out, is input, while language competence is an output. Fair enough you might say. Not so fast. Why is it that many of us learned how to read out loud in school? Why ask a child to mix two paths, one going in -- creating comprehension -- one going out -- creating verbal communication. As a result of teaching by mixing signals, many of us read to ourself out loud in our heads -- and slow our comprehension as a result. Growing one area of the brain by increased frequency, intensity and duration of stimuli grows the whole brain, Doman discovered.
Before schools were invented, parents used to be their children's teachers. In practical terms along with joining in a business, home chores and helping care for the welfare of the family, this also included literacy. Then schools were founded -- I won't get into this, during my research years ago I discovered that the American school system was based upon the German one, which was instituted for soldiers to learn to obey orders and conform to the rules. A fascinating beginning.
John Wood is right, if you want to change the world, start with the children, our future. To do that, we need to make sure that every child learns how to read. That's why my gift of choice for every expecting mother and father is How to Teach your Baby to Read. This book alone will change forever the way a parent looks at that newborn bundle of life. Each child, Doman says, has the potential of Leonardo da Vinci. You better believe it.
What I also like about Doman's methodology is that it's designed for parents to teach their children. If you've read Wood's interview, the reason why he chose his mission was the library experience early in his life. I grew up surrounded by my father's 5,000-book collection. It included two full color, glossy encyclopedia, one of which of the Arts; philosophy; history; theater; poetry; the great works of literature and reference works in about every field and, although in Italian, from every country. No surprise I love learning through reading.
Teaching a child how to read starts at home. In Philadelphia we have a great organization called Greater Philadelphia Cares, which is designed to help connect volunteers with projects in need of assistance. As Reading STARS, one of their programs, states: the ability to read is the most important determinant of future success and achievement.