JABA and Sundance Publishing

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a drab looking magazine published a few times a year. Between two unappealing covers there  are many articles written in  a relatively precise but nonetheless hard to follow  jargon which only the most dedicated BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) can tolerate.  The Journal is swarmed with  graphs which by demonstrating relations between well defined variables  convey the message that the journal is indeed a scientific one.

Books from Little Red Readers, slightly overpriced series published by Sundance Publishing, are short and colorful.  The sentences are simple.  The same sentence pattern is repeated on at least seven  pages.  The last page usually carries sentence of a different construction for a ‘dramatic’ ending. In a non-nonsense approach the publisher didn’t  bother with  title pages or tables of contents.   Title pages are redundant since  they carry the same information which was already presented on the cover.  There is no need for tables of contents for books that have only 8 pages each. No, the books from Little Red Readers series cannot be considered scientific.

One lazy afternoon in 1997 a few issues of JABA and many Red Little Reader books were spread on a table.  Robert and I were sitting on the sofa and reading three of the Little Red Books.  It went so well.  It was a very satisfying (to me) endeavor.  Robert demonstrated proper decoding skills.  His comprehension was  correct.  The sentences in which only one word kept changing from page to page helped with pronunciation and with mastering a language concept.  After we finished, Robert got up and started running around the large room while I relaxed on the sofa as proud of Robert’s reading accomplishments as if they were mine.

I wanted more.  More satisfaction, more teaching, more learning.  More, more of the same since it went so well.

So I called to Robert to bring another book from the table.  “More reading Robert.”  “Bring a book from the table.”  “Bring another book.”  “One more book.”  I kept on asking.  I did that instead of picking a book myself because I wanted Robert to follow verbal directions.  (Well, well, well… Not exactly.  I just was too lazy to get up.) I knew that Robert understood directions I had given him.  So why was he still circling around the room approaching the table and turning away from it?

I kept repeating, “Bring another book.  Just one more book”.  Robert got closer to the table, walked around it twice or three times, looked at the books.  Although I was watching him closely I didn’t realize that he was slowly concocting his solution to the request I made. He didn’t want to read, but he wanted to comply with my demand.

And so…

He grabbed an issue of JABA and threw it to me with a sly smile as if he were saying, “Read Yourself”.

Could he really develop such a response or was it just an accident?  Despite all the details confirming that it was indeed a purposeful action I still had doubts.  So, I  called to Robert, ” You want to read JABA? OK, come here, let’s read.”  I opened the Journal as if I meant to carry this threat.  Robert’s eyes widen from unexpected horror.  He made a loud “quack” sound, turned around, and sought refuge in the bathroom.

I have never read even one complete article from JABA.  My mind was fixated on finding methods of dealing with disturbing excesses of behaviors and equally troubling deficits. I needed short answers, concrete ideas. I couldn’t force my brain to deal with painstakingly constructed definitions of variables or multiple graphs.  Yet, I still consider JABA goldmine of ideas which were clearly presented in summaries preceding each article.  These summaries described clever designs of  educational procedures.  I remember that I was so impressed by the abundance of solutions to many problems I had already encountered that I called JABA and suggested that the journal publishes one issue with just the summaries . Somehow the person I spoke to didn’t seem trilled by that idea.  Maybe such publication would undermine scientific character of the magazine. It is a pity as it demonstrates a chasm between research and everyday classroom practice.  Very little of the educational research permeates the special education classrooms and that is not entirely the fault of teachers or school administration.

I am not sure if the books from Little Red Readers (Blue Readers and Green Readers) entered many special education classrooms.  They certainly had been present in our house for many years.  I purchased over 50 books.  Robert read them all many times.  Finally, I donated most of them to Big Brothers Big Sisters. I felt at that time that they already had completed their job.  Now, I am not so sure.  I think I could use them yet again to practice pronunciation.  Repeating the same sentence structure with one exchangeable element would certainly ease Robert into speaking in sentences.  Or maybe not. You never know….

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