By: Mayra Padilla, MECC
This post was contributed by a student enrolled in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.
Being a kindergarten teacher has taught me that 5 and 6 year olds have a natural way of wondering about certain topics and ideas. Reading nursery rhymes, fairy tales and many fiction books will motivate them to wonder about kings, queens, castles, a cow jumping over the moon and a handsome prince. Literature promotes wonder because it invites and encourages students to slow down, ponder on characters and plots, presents ways to think about the world we live in, and builds inquiry in our students (Johnson & Giorgis, 174, The Wonder of it All: When Literature and Literacy Intersect). Very few children, however, will continue this process. It is amazing how middle school students have lost their interest in reading, wondering, and overall asking questions. Even though many factors contribute to this notion, I am aware that three of these factors include; standardized reading/tests, families, and educators.
Standardized reading will never promote a true love or even interest for reading. I have heard middle school students say, ‘I HAVE to read this book for class because it is going to be on the test next week.’ Having students read a book just because it will be on the test next week is really teaching them to be efferent readers, and based on transactional theory, we motivate children to have a passion for reading when we teach them to read aesthetically.
Families have a great impact in middle school students having a love for reading, wondering, and asking questions. Many times students want to buy books online or at bookstores, but at home, reading is not important so the parents will not buy their child a book. This is when the student begins to feel discouraged and even doubtful. They begin to believe that books are not as important or that they are a waste of money to buy.
Educators are perhaps the most influential people in encouraging or discouraging a love for reading. Even though a child may have a great kindergarten teacher that really promotes the wondering and asking questions, it will only take one bad teacher to kill all of this inspiration. Many educators do not allow children to ask questions until it’s “question time” or let children choose their own genre of books because they feel it is not appropriate. Educators, whether in preschool, elementary, middle school, or high school, should have classrooms where the students get submerged in reading every single day! Activities such as read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, literature circles, partner reading, choral reading, book talks, and reader’s theater should take place on a daily basis! Reading should be integrated into all subjects. Students should be allowed to choose their own authentic literature and write reader’s responses and feel it is ok to disagree with the teacher and even peers during literature circles.
I believe these three factors are the cause of why students in middle school have lost their interest in reading, wondering, and overall asking questions. Of these three factors, the most dangerous one, is the educator. Not only can an educator inspire a child’s love for reading but also kill their love for reading. It only takes 15 minutes for a child to love reading, however, once a child’s love for reading is killed, it will probably be for a very long time.