Hirsch's Reading Method

What is the problem with Hirsch's method for helping children learn to read? Well, for one thing, it doesn't work very well. A child wants to read about things to which he can relate. He expands his horizons by building on what he already knows. He should not be instructed about the Incas in order to read about the Incas. He should learn about the Incas because he was reading about something he already cared about that caused him to become curious about the Incas.

Because he does not understand that how you learn determines what you learn (the Acquisition Hypothesis), Hirsch is able to hold the task of rote memorization dear. If you are interested in teaching reading, the problem is to use materials that build upon the child's own experiences, that relate to the knowledge the child has already acquired in a natural way. What is being read should tie into and extend the background which the child has developed. At least that was the message until Hirsch came along and perverted it by claiming that first children should be explicitly taught the knowledge that forms the background of what they are then to read.

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