Saturday, February 23, 2013

Zen and the Art of Getting Them to Read

I can't help it. When I see children reading, I have to say, "It's a beautiful thing."  This young one, so intent on his decodable reader is wearing a finger beam. They are an inexpensive gadget that I used to encourage kids to track as they are reading. Earlier this week, my little Kindergarten kiddos squealed with delight as I turned off the lights and announced we'd be reading with magic lights. These beginning readers are fun! Besides foundational reading skills we have practiced complimenting each other's efforts. "Excellent reading!" this little guy told his peer partner after reading the adventures of Pam and her fat hat.

When it comes to reading, I do what it takes to get kids to read, short of rewarding them with trinkets that are unrelated to reading. I never have seen the value of rewarding kids with a yo-yo, pizza, or extra recess for reading. It seems it sends a message to kids that reading in and of itself isn't valuable, therefore we have to create an artificial reinforcer. You can't fool all of the kids even some of the time. Why would we need to reward something if WE feel it is valuable in and of itself?

When it comes to reluctant readers, I suggest that we make reading the reward, the journey is the thing, not the destination. Zen and the Art of Getting Them to Read, if you will.  So, the finger beams were a way to add novelty and some joy on the journey. We all donned them and had a campfire kind of experience around the table. Growing up, as previously mentioned, I didn't need much encouragement to read. My parents surrounded me with books and I ate them for dinner. I still do. However, at least one of my daughters and many of my students don't have that same natural instinct to pick up a book. Not to mention the fact that  there are oh-so-many more distractions in their world.

Each summer  I would get my daughter the books on her school required summer reading list and ceremoniously present them her. "Wow!" I'd say, "These look GREAT!" She'd thank me and set them down. Around July 10, I'd notice they hadn't been touched. So, I'd tell her that I was happy to help her find time to read them. And, I told her, I would read it with her and we'd discuss it. Thus began the forced mother/daughter summer book club. We'd both read a chapter or two and then we'd discuss it. It was great for both of us and I tried not to notice when she was rolling her eyes at me. I think the lofty themes of  Orwell's Animal Farm escaped us both but we did our best to understand the farmyard revolution as it could relate to a family or classroom system.

One summer, this same daughter was assigned, Her Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. She picked it up, read the first page,set it down in exasperation saying, "I can't read this." "Why not?" I asked? " Look at the words, it doesn't make sense!" The book is heavy in dialect with "Ah" meaning" I" and" lak" meaning" like," etc. "Okay," I said, " I've got an idea" and we made a quick reference list of the dialect and their standard English equivalent. It helped. Halfway through, we rented the movie to aid our understanding of the book. We reached the finish line about 24 hours before the first day of school and developed a love for a beautiful story.

I have come to the conclusion that if we want kids to read (and I desperately do) we have to surround them with great books, prepare quiet space and time for them to read and flop down on our stomachs and read right with them. Shine a light on the words you love.  It's a double bonus for kids. They get great books and they get your attention. We can't go wrong. 

Here are some great books that helped me greatly in this endeavor:

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Kim Trelease

I Read It but I don't get it by Chris Tovani

Reading Magic by Mem Fox

For 1st and 2nd graders and their parents, I wholeheartedly recommend any of the books in the You Read to me, I'll Read to You series. They are written for partner reading and so much fun to snuggle up with and discover together.

From one of my students who read Wind in the Willows with me.
 One of my most favorite experiences ever!

Blessed is the reluctant reader of any age who has an adult who shares the experience of reading.
Enjoy the journey,

No comments:

Post a Comment