Teaching: Reading by Rainbow

Teaching English by pure "look-say" —the theory that children need only recognize shapes of whole words rather than individual letters or syllables—is discredited in the U.S.; 30 years of trying it produced two generations of bad spellers and etymological ninnies. But going back to pure phonics does not answer the original objection that learning English's brain-busting disparities of spelling is dull and slow. In Washington, before a class of 29 illiterate adults and teenagers, a teacher named Caleb Gattegno demonstrated a speedy means of teaching reading by an ingenious system of...