Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

Basic HTML Version

in the Diaspora and particularly in the United States: a b roader
aim o f teaching Hebrew as a living language, and a narrower
one o f teaching read ing skills alone.
T h e adhe ren ts o f the Reading Approach based their view
on the fact tha t it was the accepted one in general education
from the twenties until af te r WWII. They based themselves on
the “Coleman R eport” (1929), which had concluded that read ­
ing was to be held the primary aim in schools tha t could devote
only two years to foreign language instruction. T h e repo r t had
a great influence also on the teaching o f Hebrew in American
Hebrew schools. This influence was fu r th e r streng thened by
the controversy tha t developed du ring the thirties between two
British experts: West, who upheld the Reading Approach, and
Palmer, who adhe red to the Natural Approach and based his
own Oral Method upon i t .10 This controversy influenced two
leading Hebrew educators in the United States: Zvi Scharfstein
(1884-1972), who upheld the Natural Approach, and William
Chomsky (1896-1978), who championed the Reading Ap­
proach. Each found suppo rt among educators and teachers.
In o rd e r to improve results by use o f the Reading Approach
Chomsky p repa red a frequency list o f words for the afternoon
school to be tter p repa re the pupils for the study o f Humash
and to some exten t also for reading simple stories.11 He edited
special read ing materials for this purpose, including the Oneg
Series consisting o f 14 books. One o f the few educators who
applied Chomsky’s ideas was Azriel Eisenberg, who as head o f
the Jewish Education Committee in New York was responsible
for the Lador Series o f simple stories. Both were preceded by
Friedland, who had issued a seriess o f 120
Sippurim Yafim,
included simple stories based on a vocabulary o f about 50 words.
These could be read by pupils after only a few months o f study
in the afte rnoon school.12This successful series, which was wide­
ly used, did not lead to the production o f simple reading ma­
terials for pupils beyond the elementary level.
10. See on this, Palmer, H.E. and Rodman, H.V.,
This Language Learning Busi­
(New York: 1932).
11. Note 3, Appendix C.
12. See my article “A. H. Friedland’s Children’ Stories,” in
Habermann Institute, 1988), pp. 141-171.