Sunday, March 1, 2009

To Read or Not To Read

My fondest memory of reading is being young enough to sit on my mother's lap before bed on the rocking chair in my bedroom. The lights were dim, I had just had my bath, and I sat snuggled close to my mom in pajamas with my favorite books in hand for her to read. I even remember the titles of some of my most loved books: The Grown-Up Day, Wacky Wednesday, Bernstein Bears and the Spooky Old Tree, Are You My Mother?, etc.

My mother's bedtime read alouds helped build my current love for reading but I think teachers are equally important in developing a child's passion for reading, even at a young age.

Teaching reading strategies to decode words is crucial to become an independent reader, however teaching a student how to think, communicate, and respond to questions when reading is just as valuable. These skills are taught when reading sophisticated stories beyond childrens' independent reading levels rather than reading easy, predictable, concept books. When participating in interactive/dialogic read alouds vs. reading "Big Books" to model reading strategies, children begin to associate reading as an interactive/social experience and ultimately lays a foundation for a child's love of reading.

I also completely believe that children should have choice in what they are reading whether it is their favorite picture book or a non-fiction book about about dogs, they should have an opportunity to read from text that interests them.

I often think about my reading habits as an adult reader when teaching my Kindergarten students. Ironically, despite our age difference, we have very similar reading habits: independent reading time, partner reading time, book clubs, self-selected text, and time to talk, talk, talk! Children need these same experiences in addition to direct reading instruction to develop into independent readers who can decode, comprehend, think, respond, and stay motivated to read.

If a love for reading is not established early, many of our preschool/Kindergarten children will be one of the many adults who you so frequently hear say, "I hate to read." Am I doing all I can in my classroom to avoid my students one day saying to themselves, "to read or not to read, that is the question?"


Megan Barker said...

I also think it's really important to teach children how to "read to learn" as one of my professors calls it. They need to be able to analyze information, communicate their thoughts with others, and ask and answer questions. Simply learning how to read doesn't cover everything. Which is where dialogic reading comes in. I love how all of my classes end up connecting to each other! Except then I can't remember which class we talked about what in.

As a librarian, I want to instill in my students a love for reading. That's my main goal. However, some kids are never going to be big readers, at least not in the traditional sense. But I wonder, how many of those people who say, "I hate to read" read newspapers every morning, or read blogs, or magazines? Most people don't realize this is reading because it's not in book form or because it's not fiction. Therefore, like you said, it's important to encourage early readers to read what they enjoy. Even if they think they hate to read when they grow up, I'll bet the actually read a lot more than they know!

irrational said...

Kudos to you for this. I've contemplated how to teach someone to read several times...and it must be hard! I don't want to do it, but I'm excited that you're so excited by it.

April said...

I agree that not everyone is going to be a big reader. Liek you said, just because students don't want to read "AR books", doesn't mean they aren't a big reader. I have found it important to encourage my students to read things that they enjoy reading and not always what you think they should be reading. As a teacher that has to administer the NC EOG's to my students, it is importnat that they read passages and comprehend what they read. I think that if students are allowed to read things they enjoy reading some of the time, then they will be more open to read the required things when it is time for that type of assignment.

NYC Educator said...

Making kids read after a certain age is almost an act of seduction. You have to choose very carefully and work very hard at it. It's especially hard when you teach ESL and the kids have never read a book in English before. But it's very gratifying if you end up the first person who made them do it, especially if they thank you for it, as they do now and then.