This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
By Angelina Martinez
When I first began my Master’s program in Early Childhood, I had no idea how much the reading process actually consisted of. There are endless things to teach children when they are young so that they can become good readers, or at least on level readers. Imagine my surprise when I discovered so many of my seventh graders were reading at the second and third grade level. How is it that this happens when they are taught so much about reading from the moment they first step into school?
After reading many assigned articles and books, one of which stood out more than others, Reading Without Nonsense by Frank Smith, I can see many reasons why this could happen. First off, Frank Smith mentions that children will learn to read by reading; the isolated phonics drills that schools put such emphasis on, will come naturally if we just let children read and surround them with it as well. It is important to also know that if a child cannot read, then they should be read to. Through observations and listening of the words, they are learning. Somewhere along the line, reading to children just stops, mostly because they learn to do it on their own. Problem is that not all children can read very well independently, so why should we stop modeling and reading to them because the majority can? This is where the strugglers fall between the gaps and can risk staying behind their entire educational career.
I have also noticed that when children are very young they are usually encouraged to read books they enjoy. Teachers make the reading fun and enjoyable. As the years pass and they get older, more reading is done through passages and assigned books from the teacher. Their choices are limited in the classroom, and as they get older the focus becomes more on efferent reading and strategies to help them pass the much-dreaded STAAR test. The fun in reading gets lost and the meaningfulness behind it disappears. They rarely make the personal connections they used to as a child or during their early elementary years. As demonstrated and discussed in our Children’s and Adolescent Literature class, many things can be taught and covered through meaningful assignments and literature. Teachers and principals who worry so much about the TEKS need to find ways that engage and motivate students to read and enjoy so.
Teaching and motivating children to love reading does not only fall into the hands of the teacher, but to the parents as well. Most children have their first and many experiences with reading at home before they even start school. It is important for parents to see that any opportunity for reading, whether it is an article in a newspaper or a recipe from a cookbook, is a step in the right direction. Parents who have had bad experiences with school or reading sometimes feel as if they are incapable of helping their children with reading and believe it is something the teacher should deal with because it is his or her “job”. This is a cycle that is usually passed on and should, and can, be broken. Working together as a team; student, parent, and teacher, we can help build strong readers and allow children to indulge in their love of reading both in and out of school.