Bill Martin Jr
LEARNING TO READ NATURALLY
The Martin Model of Reading
Language works in chunks of meaning
Reading aloud deposits literary and linguistic structures in children
Developing a love of reading and books is the key as we share books with young children
Reading skills are developed in the same way speaking skills develop—through meaningful transactions
Children in a literate society are fascinated by books and reading. From the toddler years, children are drawn to a parent's or caregiver's lap by the call of rich, predictable, melodic story books. Reading begins through the ears and through the eyes as children hear the melody of language and see the beauty of the picture book art. Reading aloud to children creates a loving and pleasurable haven as the adult reads the story to the child time after time. Love and repetition are two key variables. Art and language structure are two more.
Just as children learn to talk, they can learn to read—naturally. Bill Martin Jr’s model of emergent reading shows us how. It’s simple, really—what comes into the ear of the child, if it touches the heart of the child, will soon come out the lips of the child who moves from listening to participating in the story to independent reading. Within this highly repetitive and modeled storybook environment, children develop both their receptive and expressive language abilities in response to Bill’s melodic, predictable, and developmentally appropriate storybooks.
From the first read, children will want to possess the book. With the subsequent readings, children will begin chiming the lines with you. Soon after, they will read it by themselves as you turn the pages.
The initial stage of reading is reading from experience -- from their mind, and not the page. Anticipating and knowing the highly predictable language structure allows the child to read the book without connecting to the words. As children develop in the reading process, they will begin connecting what is behind the eyes in the mind to what is in front of the eyes on the page.
The key is not to rush the child, but to realize that with each repeated reading, the child is depositing the literary structure and sentence patterns in his or her linguistic storehouse.
But how do children move from being read to, to reading the book independently? Bill Martin shows us how through his interactive model of reading.
Bill’s books demonstrate his conviction that language works in chunks of meanings. Words do not exist by themselves, but in groupings—for example—“Once upon a time” is processed as one word, or one chunk of meaning.
The jagged right margin of Martin’s books comes from breaking each line where there is a break in meaning, or a break in rhythm. Initially, the break shows the parent or teacher how the story may be read, while also modeling the phrasing for the child. This demonstrates to the young reader from the beginning to focus on clusters of words, words that sing together and give meaning together.
But how does a child move from being read to—to reading the book independently? The answer? The same way they learn to talk from listening and interacting with other language users. In learning to read, children begin the process through inputting language through the ear. Later, after they have internalized language and stories, they begin to understand that the art, words, and phrases carry meaning and tell a story. As children read these words and phrases, they develop an awareness that letters, sounds and patterns of letters are repeated in words, and they begin to internalize phonics. This phonic knowledge is then applied to new words, and the child soon bursts into independent reading.
Michael Sampson, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Education
St. John's University