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Reading aloud helps; The Real Reason Why Johnny Still Can't Read, by Stanley L. Sharp, Exposition Press, Smithtown, N.Y. $12.95).

By Special to the Christian Science Monitor / February 7, 1983



The author, Stanley Sharp, taught German and English for more than a quarter of a century at the college level. That sentence seems irrelevant, but it isn't.

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Dr. Sharp, after years of researching the question, has determined that the teaching of reading - in English - is much more difficult than the teaching of reading in German, as well as several other languages with a phonetic base.

He argues, quite convincingly, that the ''Why Johnny Can't Read'' movement fueled by Rudolf Flesch is responsibile in part for why the teaching of reading is still in such trouble in the United States.

It's those who want a phonetic approach he condemns as being unrealistic - flying in the face of the fact that so little of standard English is phonetic; that is, that it spells as it sounds.

His solution?

Reading aloud to children who follow along silently looking at the text.

Not a revolution; not a new idea; not an impossible idea; and one that many teachers and parents can testify to as successful.

Dr. Sharp wants beginning readers to put on earphones, plug in cassette tapes , pick up written texts, and, on their own, see what they hear over and over if need be.

He asks five questions on the final page of the book. They are worth repeating:

* ''Isn't the most important task of elementary education the teaching of reading?

* ''Don't we have an exceedingly difficult spelling (writing) system?

* ''Have we not failed in the past to teach many millions of children to read up to a functional level and hosts of others to read as well as citizens in a democracy should be able to read?

* ''Do we really wish to help all of our children to learn to read?

* ''Are we willing to make an affirmative and positive experiment which might well be a momentous and memorable one - the Simultaneous Reading and Listening Method - to see if we can do a better job in helping all of our teachers?''