Clarence Barnhart
Clarence L. Barnhart was a lexicographer and linguist who studied between 1930 and 1933 under the great American linguist Leonard Bloomfield at the University of Chicago.

While a student, Barnhart was hired as an editor by publisher Scott, Foresman, who at that time was introducing the "look-say" basic readers featuring "Dick and Jane" developed by William Gray.

Bloomfield had expanded his brief thoughts on teaching reading from his great 1931 text Language and suggested that they might be published as a new reading curriculum. On Bloomfield's behalf, Barnhart approached many publishers until Bloomfield's death (1949) but with little success. He wrote...

Over a period of twelve years, from 1937 through 1949, Leonard Bloomfield and I offered his system for trial and experiment to the schools of education at three large universities noted for their experimental work in education, submitted it to three large schoolbook publishers and two large tradebook publishers, and offered it to various school systems. Two university presses also considered publication and for various reasons (usually after consulting a psychologist or a teacher in the reading field) were unwilling to go ahead with any experiment.

Although initially unsuccessful as a reading textbook publisher, Barnhart collaborated with the psychologist Edward Thorndike, who had a great interest in lexicography and had compiled massive lists of words and their frequencies. The two men created the many Thorndike-Barnhart dictionaries, which were the standard college dictionaries of the next few decades.

Bloomfield published his expanded method for teaching reading in two articles entitled Linguistics and Reading in Elementary English Review in 1942. Barnhart adapted the Bloomfield articles as the introduction to his own reading curriculum called Let's Read: A Linguistic Approach, which he convinced Wayne State University Press to publish in 1961.

A revised and updated second edition was published in 2010 by Barnhart's wife Cynthia and his son Robert. In their new introduction they described Bloomfield's approach...

Bloomfield looked at the task of learning to read differently. He viewed written language as a code and therefore decipherable. Contrary to the belief held at the time (and still prevalent today), that the English spelling system is chaotic, Bloomfield’s analysis showed that it is at least 80 percent predictable or alphabetic. This regularity allowed him to design a method that capitalizes on the alphabetic nature of written English. He believed that if there were greater emphasis upon teaching the phonemic sound-letter correlations of English — how the alphabet is used to represent various sound patterns in the language - the pupil would have a much easier road toward mastery of the code.
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