Hebrew literacy seems to be a universal “problem” area with children often leaving school not reading accurately or fluently. This can result in young adults leaving their religion as they are intimidated by the synagogue experience and expectations to be able to read fluently.
Then there is the debate of whether Hebrew reading should be taught as a decoding exercise for the purposes of tefillah, or to read for meaning?
It is evident to me that many teachers that are teaching the reading of Hebrew have not studied the processes of how children acquire reading skills, which impacts on their teaching. There is also the consideration that however you package it, Hebrew is a language – so do we not need to look at how children learn another language?
In my opinion, (that has been verified through a number of sources) to read Hebrew fluently and accurately takes a combination of different approaches.
There needs to be a balance of phonic/whole word approach, with subliminal exposure to whole words within the classroom environment through labelling items in Hebrew, Hebrew games and so forth. This also provides opportunities to read for a purpose and allows pupils to internalise the directionality of the text.
There is also evidence to suggest that the best age for a child to acquire another language is between 3-7years old, and that early stages of reading Hebrew should be taught then.
Active learning is key, and use of a variety of learning styles to accommodate visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners will help children naturally progress and be in charge of their own learning.
What has been conveyed to me is that teachers are desperate for inexpensive resources and training.
Children of lower ability need extra support and resources are short in supply.
While Jewish Interactive is looking to develop digital early reading resources, more reading resources are needed and if there are any free/low cost resources that you would like to suggest, please leave a comment below with details!