But reading is not a natural development, like talking or walking. Even number concept is more naturally innate and small children quickly grasp who was given more or fewer sweets! No, reading needs many parts of our brain to work together and it takes learning and teaching; and reading uses both sides of our brain at the same time, improving
communication within our brain, thus improving creativity and innovation.
In these days of easy access to entertainment through electronic media children are less motivated to put in the hard effort to learn to read than previous generations were. We need to motivate them more. Once they begin to learn the joys of reading, our job will be done and the flames we have lit will fan themselves!
What can we do to encourage our children to read?
I was very lucky to be asked to share some of my ideas and experience on teaching reading and literacy on #PTchat. The questions raised:
i. When a child gets in a rut of reading the same author/genre; encouraging variety & not discouraging reading for fun?
ii. What are some ways we can inspire children to read beyond what’s required in the syllabus?
iii. What are some tips for home/school to help children better comprehend what they’re reading?
HERE ARE SOME OF MY IDEAS:
1. Start a “Book Club Lesson”. Divide the class into groups and each child chooses to read a book of their preferred genre. They are given a week to read it and then return to their groups to tell each other about the book they read. They then swap books, reading a book of a different genre or by a different author, chosen by a classmate. The teacher can introduce some element of competition: the person who describes their book in the most interesting way and has the most people wanting to read it wins points or tokens.
2. Each child must read at least 3 different books (from the initial ones of the “Book Club” – so each child reads their own preferred genre, followed by at least 2 of the different genre’s chosen by their peers). Then the class votes and chooses the book they feel will be best for them to turn into a movie or play. The class then sets about creating the play / movie (if the school has video facilities, the children will get even greater enjoyment by filming the
“movie”). This encourages children to broaden their selection of genres and authors to read, using peer input. It also encourages greater comprehension because each child has to describe and explain the book in a way that will make others want to read it. By making the film or play at the end, the class is further reinforcing comprehension and seeing how much fun books and stories can be.
IV. Kids are already using it, so what ways can the internet and
technology be used to increase interest in reading?
A. Divide the class into groups. Every child in every group downloads a free e-book to read (the teacher can limit genres). The groups then come together and each child describes their e-book and explains why they believe the group should choose that one for “the project”.
Ideas for “the Project”:
1. Create a comic book around the story in the selected e-book.
The children use “Clip Art” and “Paint” (or a similar drawing programme on the computer) to create a comic book. The children could simply draw (not using the computer – this depends on the class’s computer skills).
2. Perform a play based on the selected e-book
3. Write a letter from one of the main characters in the e-book to another one. The letter should be around one of the main topics of the story.
B. There are many sites on the internet where one can download and read strange and funny sayings or quirks of the English language. An example of one I have read is: “The English Plural According to George Carlin”. These are fun to read and can be used in class to stimulate reading as well as discussion around grammar.
v. What can be done at school to help students who may not have the
support or resources at home?
This is a big problem in some areas in South Africa. Using old magazines to find and cut out the words needed to “write” their own book is a method some teachers in poor schools in the Western Cape (South Africa) use to teach and encourage reading. I have taken the idea and run with it a bit to come up with the following:
1. This is mostly for children in the earlier grades.
Let the class begin to construct their own short story –brainstorming who the “hero” will be and what will happen in the story. The teacher then works with the class to construct simple sentences to comprise the “book” and writes the sentence on the board. ·
The children then page through old magazines, looking for the words that are in the sentence, cut out the words and paste them onto a page in the correct order to “print” their own book.
The children can “illustrate” their book either by finding and cutting out pictures or by drawing them.
The completed book is then proudly displayed and read to the parents or to another class.
2. I have developed a reading programme and published it as a book (Teach Your Child To Read With Movement, Fun & Games). It designed to use minimal equipment and teach reading from early auditory processing, through phonics, to sight words and finally actual reading. If one book is obtained, the letters, words and phonics in it can be cut out and used for as many children, over as many years as people need. This makes it a cheap option where there are a lot of children. The games are fun and appeal to children who want to play and use their imaginations. Children who find sitting still to learn difficult, love learning through active games such as these.
3. You will notice in by book that I also use children’s nursery rhymes to teach and support reading. Almost everyone has access to nursery rhymes – you can download them from the internet and change the font size and then use them to help children learn word recognition and develop confidence and flow when reading. You will be pleasantly surprised at how learning rhymes encourages your child's early reading.
vi. Helping kids find books they like can be difficult for parents, what are some tips/resources to get them started?
Reading is linking our listening parts of our brain with our seeing parts of our brain. When we read, we are “listening” to someone’s story. It is more difficult than purely to sit back and receive the mostly visual input from a film or TV; so children prefer to watch TV or movies rather than read. But storytelling is as old as humanity itself. Everybody loves to hear a good story.
The warmth of the relationship between a parent telling a story and the child, make up for the extra effort in having to use more of his brain to get into the story. Children love it when a story is read to them with enthusiasm and conviction. So the first thing the parent must do is choose a book that he/she themselves enjoys. Begin reading it to your child, use animation and a little dramatics to increase his interest. Then stop and let him read a few pages to himself before he goes to sleep.
There has recently been a resurgence of professional Storytellers and taking your child to listen to one (instead of just going to see a new-release film) will further stimulate the listening side of our brain. Listening to stories and reading stories allows our visual side of our brain to conjure up our own images of what is happening. It stimulates creativity and inspires further reading and maybe even writing of our own stories.
Click here if YOU HAVE EVER WONDERED WHAT READING ACTUALLY ENTAILS. How does the written word transport us across galaxies of our imagination?