Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Secret Art of Reading

Being a Kindergarten teacher for many years, I have been asked so often about how children learn to read. I think it really depends on the individual child BUT, at the moment Orlando is very keen to read everything that he sees. It has got me thinking and reflecting and I wanted to share a few of these thoughts.

This is by no means a "how to teach your child to read.." passage, just some reflections and ideas I thought I would share.

Just before leaving on our holiday, I was reading a very old and very outdated book on children's literacy. It was "On learning to read: the child's fascination with meaning" by Bruno Bettelheim. Now this chap had a lot of twisted ideas and blamed mothers for everything BUT he had a few points that got me thinking...

He was discussing how in the olden days (even old when he was writing it, so were talking WAY BACK) the book that was most commonly read was the Bible. Most people were illiterate and those who did know how to read were seen to know the 'secrets' and wisdom that was contained in the Bible. Those who could read were able to access the mysteries! This was a great motivation for people to learn to read, as they could then be able to access what other were.

When we then think about writing and reading from a child's perspective today... Adults and older peers are able to read. They are able to access the text rich world that we live in, where as younger children rely on the picture to interpret meaning. Many children are eager to learn the secret art of reading so that they too can access the world around them.

The only real way we are going to assist a child to become literate is to give them the passion and motivation to want to become literate. If they don't have the want, there will never be a way... no matter how hard you try.

So, as parents, it is drilled into us (and rightly so) that we must read to our children.  I agree whole heartedly with this... read, read and read! But read INTERESTING books. Beautiful texts that are rich with melody and rhyme. Texts that are inspiring and leave the child's imagination zooming from one place to another.

These books develop a passion for text, a desire to hear and know all the wonderful stories of the world (any one who knows my children, knows that the fastest way to their heart is to sit and read with them... and it is the adults who have had enough LONG before the children have :))

So at 4/5/6 ish most children who have this passion for books and stories are going to want to start accessing the books independently. They are wanting to read the signs around them and to tell others stories. They now have the passion AND the motivation! PERFECT!!! So what do we give them, to assist them to learn to read? READERS....

Anyone read one lately? OMG how stupid do the writers believe children to be? How could anyone go into writing and write such monotonous crap! "I can run. I can jump. I can swing. I can walk." snore!!!

Then kids sit and think..... WHAT! this is what I've been working up to? This is the secrets I've been waiting to access?

It is not motivating to read this rubbish! There are no secrets discovered from reading it! There is nothing for my imagination to explore! I have learnt nothing.

The only motivating fact is that we as adults create such a fuss over the fact that the child is 'reading' that they believe this is a way to receive praise and attention from adults.

I don't even consider these beginner readers as even reading... the adult assists you to read the title, which is then repeated through EVERY page of the book and you can look at the picture and guess what the other word is.... thats not reading, its parroting and guessing!

And then we wonder why many children have no motivation to read at school? With these readers we are not valuing children's capabilities and intelligence.

I completely acknowledge that there are situations where children need specific skills and knowledge taught to them to assist them to connect the gaps in their understanding. These need to be done on an individual or small group basis as 75% of the children will have worked out what sound an 's' makes without a formal lesson about it.

So as a parent, with a 5 year old who is chomping at the bit to read, is full of motivation and passion and wants to soak up the literate world around him... what am I doing to support his budding literacy?

- We are continuing to read AMAZING stories and chapter books full of adventure!

- We are talking about words. When Orlando asks about what that sign says... I say .. "Why don't you read it! Have a try and I'll help you if you need". He has a try, he finds the sounds he knows, I give him the ones he doesn't, "In this word the 'tion' makes a 'shun' sound"

- In this fashion we read signs everywhere, when in context children can read words far harder than we give them credit for. Particularly at the moment with all of our bush walking, Orlando is reading us all the warnings and directions that we need! and LOVING it.

- When reading interesting picture books together, I ask Orlando to read some of the more simple words, we take turns and share.

- Orlando reads books that he 'knows' to Matilda, whether he gets all the word right or not doesn't matter, he is still getting the satisfaction of 'reading'

I completely acknowledge at this point that I have an intelligent young chap who is keen to learn everything the world has to offer. Many children are not always so keen. Having had many a Kindy over the years, I have had to help numerous students who just "didn't get it". In acknowledging all of this, I still maintain that a passion and motivation to want to learn on the child's part is the most important factor in the whole event. We need to be careful to fuel this passion, not extinguish it by feeding them rubbish!

Let's maintain a sense that the written word is full of secrets, mysteries and delicious information that you just have to get your teeth in to!

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