Keys to reading
There are only two things to know about reading, neither involve phonics. Those who can "do" phonics don't need them and those who can't, need something else.
Reading is not "saying words". The first thing readers need is to be surrounded by books and people who read them. If you never read, even if you can, what message are you sending? If you have no books in your home, what are you signalling?
The second thing is a realisation of the nature and complexity of the English language, its huge polyglot corpus, its irregular vowels, its huge borrowings, its ambiguity and nuanced meanings. Latin-derived words, of which there are many, are easily pronounced, others not so much.
Education has many offspring. How about rote learning of high-frequency words in a fun way for children? Too retrograde? Maybe that's what the new books are doing? At least learners won't have to stumble over words as frequent as "the".
To be readers, children have to talk a lot and have their lexicon extended by the virtuosity of yours. Sure you can read but never do. Boy, do you panic when your kids can't.
Barbara Matthews, Onehunga.
My son was diagnosed with dyslexic tendencies in March, 2019. He was 7.5 and reading at 6-year-old level, so anxious that he was refusing to go to school. I sought ways to help him and discovered structured literacy. I was flabbergasted to also discover the way he had been taught at school was at odds with how the human brain learns to read. Even the reading recovery intervention programme he had been put through at great cost to the school was decades out of date. I asked his school to use the structured literacy approach - they declined, calling it "too radical".
Luckily, we could afford a private tutor. Eighteen months on, my now 9-year-old is reading above his age level and spelling at 10-year-old level. His anxiety has decreased and he enjoys school.
Using decodable books played a huge part in this. They reinforce the habit that good readers use – decoding. Structured literacy and explicit, systematic, synthetic phonics is no "fad". It is based on decades of scientific research. How "radical" is that?
Paula Short, Upper Moutere.
Jacinda Ardern assured us all at the beginning of the Covid crisis that all decisions would be based on sound evidence.
Professors Baker and Gorman, among others, have told us it is a good idea to not have shared spaces in isolation facilities, to move quarantine centres out of densely populated areas and to allow in fewer people from Covid-ravaged places like the UK and the USA.
I contacted our ministry some time ago with the latter concern (why are we importing so much Covid?). I received a reply recently from the office of Chris Hipkins saying our MIQ facilities are, "Robust and meet the expectations of New Zealanders; that every action we took as a collective five million to stamp out the virus, applies in these facilities."
I assume whoever wrote that did not read my question and many more concerned citizens received exactly the same reply.
I remain very concerned that we will all pay dearly for the laxity of poor governments in other countries. We did a proper lockdown right at the start. They did not. Do we have to import their diseases?
Jonathon Harper, Laingholm.
Hotels - located in population-dense areas - are exactly the wrong facilities to be using during a pandemic featuring an airborne virus.
They are convenient and economic because a lot of people can be housed within the same confined space. But this is precisely why they shouldn't be managed in hotels.
People should be widely separated and not encountering each other in confined spaces as they move within and between levels in hotels.
I think of the floors of hotels now in the same way I think about trays in an incubator.
I don't advocate closing the borders but I do think the Government must reduce the flow rate of arrivals if it insists on using city hotels to house them.
Barbara Callaghan, Kohimarama.
Covid-19 is no joke. It's dangerous.
In extreme cases it can even cause brain damage. In one case, a recent Covid patient ended up so deranged he thought he had won an election that he actually lost by more than 7 million votes.
Phil Chitty, Albany.
If another Covid lockdown becomes unavoidable I hope we can be absolutely strict about masks in all public places, including access to supermarkets.
Last April, after I'd queued for half an hour to enter a local supermarket, a smartly dressed man, unmasked and bellowing into his mobile, strode close behind several of us decently spaced and masked fruit-and-veg selectors, leaving a swirl of droplets in his wake.
The primary use of a mask is to avoid exhaling droplets: it is also a less-effective last defence against airborne cross-infection. Although drops of 0.1mm fall to the ground in seconds, the virus can be carried on much tinier particles that stay airborne. When did you last see an exhaled vape flop to the ground?
Peter Milner, Ellerslie.
Dose of reality
New Zealand has been held up as a model for its handling of Covid-19 in showing wisdom, compassion and good governance.
In our neighbourhood in Nepal, people are quick to praise New Zealand, even as many (including our friends) are falling sick through community transmission.
We hear news of vaccines arriving in Nepal soon, but no one expects them for months – Nepal can afford vaccines for a only small percentage of its 30 million people, another 20 per cent will be helped by COVAX. The rest must wait for donations from global funds and rich donor countries.
What a surprise to read that New Zealand, essentially Covid-free and with five million people, has secured more than 24 million doses. Even including the 300,000 people in neighbouring Pacific countries, this is more than double the required doses. The World Health Organisation chief this week described vaccine hoarding by rich countries as a "catastrophic moral failure".
Someone, please help me explain New Zealand's policy to my Nepali neighbours.
Richard Storey, Pokhara, Nepal.
What is enough?
I write in support of your correspondent Derek Alston (NZ Herald, January 25) calling for an honest and critical discussion on population growth. The only conversations we hear from councils or governments are of a blind acceptance. The truth is, no political party is willing to have this conversation.
Governments love more population as it provides more taxpayers and business sees more people as merely more consumers. But what both of these views share is an inability to appreciate the demands on society's expensive infrastructure and the strain on the planet's ecosystems. More people means more land and more energy required, more trees cut down, more habitat loss, more extinction of species, more plastic in the oceans, more greenhouse gases.
The science is in on this, but who is willing to discuss it? The great ecologists David Attenborough and Jane Goodall are both members of a group calling itself Population Matters, calling for a rethink on the out-of-control condition of the human species. It's all about education and women's rights. Let's have that conversation without fear of a backlash. Now is the time.
Paul Judge, Hamilton.
I was astounded to read (NZ Herald, January 25) that the leader of the National Party chose not to watch last week's US presidential inauguration.
Presuming that she has aspirations to become Prime Minister, I would have thought that watching it would have been part of her briefing herself on current world affairs.
The time of day it was shown live in New Zealand was very convenient.
If being an author is more important to her, then she should move aside now for someone else more committed to being a political leader.
Alistaire Hall, Pukekohe.
Short & sweet
On QR codes
Business, particularly small enterprises, will be seriously impacted if Covid levels increase.
Please, thank your customers for tagging in. It's never been more important. Leo Neal, Ellerslie.
Aren't we lucky it was an older woman who had the virus? It is always us oldies that log on to the QR codes. Mary Jack, Whangārei.
All people entering New Zealand from overseas must, after the quarantine period is over, stay close to their home for one month and not gallivant around the countryside. Norm Empson, Tauranga.
Please can the Government sort out border security and managed quarantine, once and for all, for everyone's sake? Janet Boyle, Ōrewa.
It is just common sense to stop people coming into our country until the vaccines are rolled out. Rex Head, Papatoetoe.
So burger chain Five Guys is coming here next year (NZ Herald, January 25). Great, that's just what New Zealand, one of the fattest nations in the world, needs. B. Harper, Kohimarama.