John Holt, the homeschooling/unschooling advocate, wrote that once a child really wants to learn to read for his own reasons, it takes about thirty hours of focused help from someone who knows how.
Holt argues in Instead of Education that we can't fathom this because "S-chools and T-eachers believe, and soon convince the children, that everything that is learned must be T-aught. So the T-eachers must spend hundreds of hours trying to cope with and outwit the kind of children's evasive tactics I wrote about in How Children Fail. They make children anxious and dependent and then say, rightly, how hard it is to deal with their anxiety and dependency. None of this need be."
Herbert Kohl makes a similar argument in Reading, How To. He writes in the preface,
There is no reading problem. There are problem teachers and problem schools. Most people who fail to learn to read in our society are victims of a fiercely competitive system of training that requires failure. If talking and walking were taught in most schools we might end up with as many mutes and cripples as we now have non-readers. However, learning to read is no more difficult than learning to walk or talk. The skill can be acquired in a natural and informal manner and in a variety of settings ranging from school to home to the streets.
Later, in Chapter 2, he writes, "If a youngster fails to acquire the skill or comply with the rules of learning, he or she is considered retarded or criminal, that is, in more polite school language, a learning or behavior problem."