Review and Analysis of John Holt’s “Making Children Hate Reading”

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Holts describes his teaching experiences and paints contrasting pictures of his evolving teaching style. The synopsis of his writings reflects his understanding that rather than expect and demand explanation and understanding from children after they read books, reading and writing should instead be viewed as a pleasurable experience in order to develop understanding and interest. His writings assert the theory that when children are pressured to learn and understand, teachers slowly cause them to associate books with frustration. However, students who are allowed to read for pleasure still have the opportunity to learn, and are more willing to expand their reading because they enjoy it. The following will review Holt’s experiences and provide a personal point of view of the impact of how teachers approach students in the area of reading and writing from as early as first grade. Based on Holt’s assertions as well as personal experiences, instructors can have a positive impact on students in the areas of reading or writing by eliminating the pressure that comes with standardized reading and subsequent testing.

Teachers can reduce the pressure and make reading more enjoyable by eliminating the requirement for students to look up every word they don’t understand. Holt suggests that allowing students to learn by exposing them to the words and meanings in context, they will begin to pick up an understanding on their own, without the frustration of looking up multiple words as they go through each page (Holt 25).  The main point is not to overwhelm children with a heavy sense of burden that comes from needing to understand every word that they read. 

This positive impact can be accomplished by reading aloud and incorporating group discussion. Pearson suggests that reading aloud can enhance fluency, increase comprehension and develop critical reading skills. As the teacher reads aloud and students follow along, they are able to perceive meaning of unfamiliar words based on the inflection and tone of the teacher. In addition, class discussion will allow students to express their perception of the reading and listen and understand varied points of view. It will not only hone understanding of the reading, it will also encourage them to be open-minded and inquisitive about how other people perceive it. This will have a positive impact in student writing because they will have a more considerate comprehension about how to address and relate their personal experiences or viewpoints to others. This supports Holt’s theory of how to positively impact student perceptions of reading and writing

Teachers can also have a positive impact by limiting competition and supporting pleasure reading from classic literary authors such as J.D. Salinger or Roald Dahl. When student anxiety is reduced, students can retain more information and exhibit positive learning behaviors (Gasperovich 1) Allowing students to read at their own pace will allow them to develop positive reading habits and increase interest in books on their own. Eliminating the pressure by making it light and casual will cause students to take more pleasure in reading comprehension. This may even influence them to begin to ask more questions in order to understand without being prompted to.

In conclusion, managing the anxiety of children as it relates to reading and writing can be accomplished by eliminating strict requirements, giving students the freedom and space to learn without pressure. Reading out loud is also helpful as it helps students learn context by listening to tone and inflection. Teachers can have a significantly positive impact on student learning by eliminating pressure and allowing students to learn at their own pace.

Works Cited

Gasperovich, Lindsay. “Positive Behavior Support: Learning to Prevent or Manage Anxiety in the School Setting”. University of Pittsburgh. 2008. Retrieved from http://www.sbbh.pitt.edu/files/other/Anxiety_LNG_newsletter.pdf 

Holt, John. Making Children Hate Reading. Pitman Publications. 1969. ISBN: 1-59181-038-8

Pearson, Polette. Reasons to Teach Children to Read Aloud. Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall. 2010