The Usefulness of
Five Basic Word Lists
By Horst G. Taschow, Faculty of
This article originally appeared in Journal of Reading, Vol. 20, No.5, February, 1977, and is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Taschow and the International Reading Association.
When Otto and Smith (1973) asserted that "learning to read is essentially the same process for all learners," they assumed that teachers are "thoroughly familiar with the fundamentals" in teaching reading from kindergarten to adult programs, Unfortunately, many instructors are not prepared to teach reading to students in Adult Basic Education (ABE), In 1973, Taschow (1974) launched a provincialwide semimonthly series of letter" called The Servicefriend in which reading fundamentals and how to integrate them in content areas are suggested to ABE instructors, in conjunction with emphasis on the vast differences in teaching reading to adults and children, Psychological, sociological, and physiological differences necessitate special treatment. of adult learners. As Martin (1973) rightfully said, the "adult student is not like a child standing at the classroom door awaiting the adult reading teacher's arrival,"
If we are to assist ABE instructors in teaching reading fundamentals to adults, reading educators need to seek answers to basic questions, which include: What vocabulary words must ABE students know? Should ABE students learn basic sight words? Are the basic word lists used in elementary reading also applicable for adult students?
While Kreitlow (1973) asked similar questions of the Dale list of 760 words, Lowe and Follman (1974) have concluded that the Dolch List is appropriate today from kindergarten to adult levels, The next study needed was comparison of the usefulness, in adult programming, of more than one available list, I therefore selected five commonly used ones for comparison with materials many adults need to read.
Adults read from a variety of sources for multiple purposes. To reflect the range end purpose of adult reading, ten passages were selected randomly from a local newspaper, a Canadian government booklet on taxes and one on customs and excise, Reader's Digest magazine, advertisements, instructions on a Sanyo tape recorder, the Professional Reading Yearbook, the Mott Language Skills Program, Layout and Design of Printing, and the directions in a brochure about personal checking accounts.
The ten passages ranged from twenty-one to twenty-eight words each, giving a total of 260 which were compared with the words contained in the five word lists being evaluated for adult needs.
Basic Word Lists