Sentimental Hoarding

September 11, 2020

Over the years I have been somewhat plagued by what I call a Sentimental Hoarding Disorder (SHD).

My SHD mostly involves some form of paper.  Certain items could never be thrown out and have been kept for many years. So, for example, if there was an article or a magazine featuring the Rolling Stones or the racehorse Secretariat,  I still have it in a box or a pile somewhere.

The same has been true with any article related to reading disabilities and dyslexia.

With the symbolic start of a new year post Labor Day,  I recently tried decluttering by tossing out some of the accumulated SHD sitting in piles.

While painfully decluttering, I came upon a 2002 article from the New York Times titled, “How Learning to Read a Book is Like Learning to Play the Piano” (Brent Staples, 2002).

Extensively quoted in the article is Phyllis Bertin, the then director of reading at the acclaimed Windward School, a private school for children with learning disabilities/dyslexia.

The article summarized Ms. Bertin’s explanation of the philosophy underlying the school:

“Windward rejects just about all of the conventional wisdom underlying programs at traditional schools.  The most important difference is that the school views reading and writing not as things that humans are “naturally wired” to do, but as acquired skills – like driving or playing the piano – that require structured practice and constant conceptual reinforcement.”

The article went on to say that Bertin felt many children who fall behind are “curriculum disabled,” by schools that do not know how to teach them.

Ms. Bertin likens the school to a conservatory where aspiring musicians practice scales and play exercises to prepare themselves for the masterworks they one day hope to play,” it was noted

Eighteen years later the article is as relevant now as it was then.

Just yesterday a mom called me upset that her 8 year old child was still stuck in an early first grade level.

“I don’t understand,” the mom said.  “I don’t know how it happened, but his older brother just learned to read, like the light bulb went off in second grade and he was reading by exposure to school and other things.”

I said to her, “Yep, it’s what I call the ‘smooth road and the rough road’.  About 80% of the kids get on the bike and by second grade they’re riding – no big deal.  It’s a smooth road. For the rest, they are still wobbling at the starting point.  They need much more patient, direct instruction with a lot of skill practice – just like learning to play an instrument or hit a tennis ball.  I will send you an article I have from about 20 years ago that lays this all out.”

Takeaway Point

Beside the obvious disadvantage of creating clutter, a “Sentimental Hoarding Disorder” has some advantages.

Holding on to an article nearly 20 years old helps to adds fuel to the fire.

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All comments (4)
  • Joanna
    September 11, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Excellent article! Thanks so much for sharing this age-old wisdom!!!

    Reply
  • Sally
    September 11, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Love this blog! I have SHD myself, but with more than just papers. Great article content, so true in most school systems.

    Reply

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