Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reasons for Reading

Whilst the primary focus of my work is to help kids struggling with reading, to learn the skills and knowledge of reading so that they can read ... I work with them not just so that they can do their school work, but because first and foremost reading is (or should be) a pleasure and because it can shift our mind in an instant ... if we immerse ourselves in reading.
Years ago, when my daughter was younger, she often experienced troubling nightmares which at times were difficult to shift her out of.  But with her increasing skills in reading, when she now has a difficult dream she can simply pick up a book from her childhood to read ... and it takes her back immediately to the feelings and experiences we have had in reading together.  Reading can be an instant 'pick me up' and she has utilised an important self care strategy.
Personally, my favourite part of my day is our reading aloud together at the end of each day.  Nowadays I am not the only one reading aloud.  She reads a book aloud at a level she is competent at reading and then I read aloud a more complex book.  We talk about both stories, about the different writing styles, about our feelings ... our levels of excitement, which book is engaging us more and why, words or phrases that 'catch us' and where we think the story might go.  And the stories we read often later become teaching points when real life situations emerge.  Reading aloud together nurtures our relationship.
In one of our conversations I mentioned that I enjoyed reading a good book more than I enjoyed movies.  I mentioned that they lasted longer and that the feeling is richer, to which she replied, "yes, in books you can make the story your own, whereas in films someone has made the content up for you."  She hit the nail on the head.  Reading engages the imagination way more than movies.  Oh, how I wish all our kids could read and reap the pleasures that come with that.
A colleague of mine is heavily involved in teaching kids from often traumatic backgrounds to read.  She is mindful that reading can be one of the few ways a child in trauma can escape what is going on around them (and rest the mind).  If these kids don't have reading, maybe it is no wonder they turn to other, less nurturing, outlets.
In my view the general population is ignorant of how big our illiteracy problem is.  Kids not being able to read or not being able to read text with greater complexity, does not amount to one or two, here and there.  By Year 9 we are looking at just over half the student population not able to read classroom text.  And as you can imagine by the time we get to this age, very few of them are involved in reading aloud in the home.  In fact, statistics tell us very few of them have been experiencing that for a very long time.  And particularly if a child is struggling to with how they are being taught to read, then the thrill and pleasure of stories and reading must be kept alive through reading aloud to them.  It takes time to learn to read (3 years with an evidence based program, the trajectory is much more elusive when not using an evidence based program), so during that time children's connection with reading must be maintained and enriched through other avenues i.e. reading aloud.
Reading aloud together is such a pleasure, and has so many health giving benefits.  If you recall fond memories of being read to as a child, or wishes you were read to as a child, then take up the call and read aloud to the young, old, sick, loved, people in your lives.

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