Blindfolded Reading Method - Caveat Emptor

08/31/2010 00:00:00
Penulis/Peneliti : Setiono Sugiharto


Bidang Penelitian : Sat, 08/28/2010


Jurnal : The Jakarta Post


Volume :


Tahun : 2010


The bad habit we are fond of cultivating is that we are always prematurely despising anachronistic ideas, and uncritically welcoming new ones. This is precisely the case as we now witness a sudden surge of interest in a recent education craze — the blindfolded reading method. 

This method, it is claimed, can stimulate both left and right hemispheres of the brain. What’s more, it has been argued such a method is able to bolster reasoning, concentration and analytical thinking, as well as speed up one’s reading ability within a short period of time. Also believed to accelerate the midbrain activation, blindfolded reading has now been successful in decoying parents.

It is quite interesting to observe that many parents are easily lured by the method without even being cognizant of its efficacy in improving their children’s literacy skills. The craze of blindfolded reading has attracted many children nationwide, apparently creating a new education phenomenon in the country.

Just as in other established fields or disciplines, in the field of education, the tendency to resort to a new educational method or model is motivated primarily by the flaws the old one suffers. Deemed no longer able to offer solutions to the constantly emerging problems, the old model is usually either modified or totally replaced by the new one.

As such, the phenomenal midbrain activation through blindfolded reading seems to offer fresh insight to those wishing to improve their literacy competence in a short time, and to promise a shortcut solution to reading problems; it also seems to contest a usual, conservative, yet intuitively appealing reading approach, with which many people are already familiar. 

It is perfectly legitimate to shift from one orientation to another, hence from the conservative to a more contemporary model of reading method. However, a note of caveats is in order before we can make a judicious decision.

First, we are seriously doing our children or students a disservice by shifting our orientation to a method that is enjoying currency and popularity, while the conservative one is still becoming a central player in contemporary pedagogy.

The usual, conservative technique to reading, such as self-sponsored or extensive reading, for example, has proved tremendously powerful in accelerating one’s literacy development, and it would be folly to abandon it for the sake of uncritically accepting a more up-to-date, yet bizarre, reading method.

While the power of blindfolded reading in activating midbrain function and in facilitating one’s literacy development remains enigmatic, and therefore subject to scientific scrutiny, the tremendous educational benefits of self-sponsored reading are crystal clear, and are available in most contemporary educational literature.

“We need a method or model that is not only conceptually parsimonious and scientifically proved effective, but also easily accessible to poor children.”

Hundreds of research findings (well documented in Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading) across languages exist espousing the value of self-sponsored reading. In the extreme cases, literacy competence has been found to be possible with the absence of teaching instruction. That is, even without attending formal schooling, self-sponsored reading is adequate to empower children with literacy skill.

Second, in a developing country like ours where many of our children live in poverty-stricken regions, what we desperately need now is certainly not a costly and commercially motivated literacy method, one whose educational benefits are still uncertain.

We need instead a method or model that is not only conceptually or theoretically parsimonious and scientifically proved effective, but also easily accessible to children of poverty.

At present, extensive reading (i.e. reading for one’s own pleasure without accountability) or self-sponsored reading seems, in my view, to meet the above condition. Clearly, theorizing something afresh in the presence of scientifically verified theoretical constructs is not necessary as it is against the Ockham Razor’s principle — do not multiple entities beyond the necessary. 

Given its scientifically grounded evidence, extensive reading — the usual and familiar way of doing one’s literacy activities — still stands out as the most robust pedagogical means to help children and students boost their literacy competence.

The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya University, Jakarta, and chief editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.