Basal readers are textbooks designed to teach reading in a sequential, skill-oriented way. They are generally accompanied by numerous prepackaged materials, including workbooks. The stories included in the basal readers have controlled vocabularies, going from what are viewed as easier words to more complex words, from very short sentences of three words to longer sentences of four to six words, and the like. Most schools use basal readers, although if they are rigidly followed, they do not match the principles of developmentally appropriate classrooms.
Some children, for example, need much more experience with language -- hearing more language in more contexts, talking more, seeing more printed letters and words -- before they can effectively start the basal series in reading. But the basal program assumes that all children of the same age start from the same point. Because everything in the program is sequential, those who have less language experience when they start the program are automatically behind as readers. Young children do not need this kind of negative beginning. On the other hand, for those who are very independent readers, the basal program may provide little challenge.
Reprinted from the series 101 Educational Conversations by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.