We each have a story of how we became readers. I believe an individual’s learning story tells a lot about who they are as a reader and would even say that the story and experience of becoming a reader have a significant impact on the learner’s development in literacy.
Here is a glimpse into mine…
First, allow me to preface this by saying that this isn’t a story that you would expect to hear from an educator. Perhaps that’s what makes sharing this story meaningful.
I fondly remember visits to the public library with my parents before I ever set foot in school. There was what seemed to me like a room-sized sandbox filled with picture books surrounded by a bench so that you could sit and easily dive into the sea and choose from the hundreds of books. I was allowed to pick ten, but it was always a challenge to narrow it down. I would scan the library to see if I could find my Mom and see how big her pile was, always hoping that she would have room to take out just a few more books for me.
Where the Wild Things Are was a favourite, as well as Curious George, Dr. Seuss and Pippi Longstalking was fun too. There were so many…
My kindergarten teacher introduced us to reading in French through music. She played records and the song “Luc va à l’école avec son chien Fido. Il sort de sa maison. Marche. Marche. Fido sort avec lui. Trotte. Trotte,” still makes me smile. By the time we were introduced to the words on the page, well it was just another chance to sing the song. Reading was simply the fortunate by product.
Our grade one teacher had a magic carpet called the “tapis magique” and would wear a sombrero called “le chapeau magique” so we could travel to faraway places. Hearing her read sparked my imagination every time.
By grade two we were onto SRA kits and not long after this I developed two separate views on reading. There was reading for joy and then there was reading for school. Luckily, my enthusiasm for reading in English continued and I remember using a flashlight under the covers to stay up reading well after bedtime. It wasn’t long before I was into novels like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach written by Roald Dahl, Blubber and Superfudge by Judy Blume, Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, Charlotte’s Web, series like Nancy Drew, the Choose Your own Adventure Books and Little House on the Prairie.
Grades 4 through 7 were occupied with the Ginn Series, book report after book report and comprehension questions on texts. Having the chance to hear a teacher read aloud an engaging novel for the simple fun of it was rare, but treasured. There was too much to do, we were often told.
At home, there was always a way to find time. One evening our babysitter was reading Forever by Judy Blume and I knew from her reactions that it was worth checking out. Bear in mind this was long before the internet, so this was how curious adolescent girls discovered the world. There was also Little Women, the Outsiders, Sweet Valley High and the Archie Comics that paved the road to adolescence.
High school Years and Beyond…
Well, I describe this as a time when I became a non-reader, but a master at figuring out what the teacher wanted so I could produce it and get back to doing whatever it was that I considered fun and meaningful at the time. University in the first few years was pretty much the same, though a little more challenging at manoeuvering my way through. It wasn’t that I didn’t read at all. I read and in university I would even say I read quite a bit. Unfortunately,I don’t have any vivid memories and experiences of reading.
My renewed interest in reading was sparked when a friend introduced me to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I remember feeling the same excitement I get from travelling or going on an outdoor adventure. This was followed by A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. And my enthusiasm for reading was back!
Sixteen years later and reading remains one of my fondest activities. I always have anywhere from 10-15 books on the go. I read for many purposes now and there are still times when reading feels like work and I realize that too has its’ value. But, I always seek out the opportunity to let go of everything and read for pure enjoyment, like an indulgent treat.
My four year old twin boys were recently in the public library at the check-out counter to sign out books during their weekly visit when an older gentlemen commented, “Why would they be taking out books? They can’t even read yet.” I wish I had been there to answer his question.
What have I learned about how to foster a love of reading in kids?
- Consider that reading is an experience that inspires a feeling, an emotional reaction. Ask yourself what experience your child is having from reading and how can you ensure it’s positive.
- Surrounding kids with a variety of beautiful, rich, interesting and inspiring fiction and non-fiction books, is a valuable investment. These can also be found at a public library.
- Read aloud to a child just for the fun of it and as often as possible. Reread their favourite books as much as they want.
- Don’t force a child to read a crummy book! Let them abandon a book that’s boring. Kids read more if they enjoy it.
- You will frequently hear educators encourage children to read books that are “just right” (not too easy and not too hard with no more than 5 challenging words per page) reading. Yes, but never underestimate the power of amazing books…remember Harry Potter? A generation of kids of ages 5-10 learned to read just so they could enjoy this series.
- Children need to be empowered to play an active role in positively influencing the future goals of literacy. We know literacy is significantly being influenced by changes in information based technology. Therefore, children need to be more critically conscious of what they are using to construct meaning.
- Model being a reader in a variety of ways every day. Talk to your child about reading. Kids who don’t yet read often view reading as this mysterious and magical skill. Let them in on the secrets.
- Personalize reading to your child. Finding a way to connect with a child’s internal world is key to understanding and enabling their development of literacy skills. Learn about who they are as a reader and connect their skills with interests.
- Literacy is complex and so is emotion and human cognition. An educated, strategic and eclectic approach to reading is needed that centres on the individual’s needs and interests and promotes inquiry, creative and critical thinking.
- Reading should be meaningful for children in all contexts, at home and at school. Within effective contructs, children effectively fall into books and become hooked on reading.
What’s your story? What book got you hooked on reading?
Every Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 pm (English) and 1:55 pm (French) Ecole Eric Langton Elementary has Principal/Guest story time. Our themes for story time are “What book got you hooked on reading?” and “Why a good book is a secret door to what’s possible.” I share my favourite children’s books just for the fun of it. We are always seeking guest readers who would like to come and share a book and the story of how they got hooked on reading. Let me know if you would like to come by!