I just posted this in a discussion board for my education class - a class on reading and learning to read. Each of us were to post our core beliefs about reading. I thought some of you may be interested in this.
I think everyone here is agreement that reading and learning to read is one of the most important things we can teach our children. I 100% agree with our textbook on the subject of early literacy - from birth to school. I remember when my six-year old was a baby - my husband and I would read books to him and show him colorful pictures (he never liked black and white pictures the way most babies do). He would stay entertained for long periods of time with books. Some if his favorites were a set of Sesame Street alphabet board books that we ordered for him. We were so happy and proud that he enjoyed books and reading so much.
Then, along came my almost-four-year old son. He was the total opposite of Taliesin. We tried and tried and tried to read to Nathanael, to show him colorful pictures, black and white pictures - nothing worked. We could not get through more than two pages of a board book with four words on each page - literally. He was a mover and a shaker as a baby. He loved playing with his baby gym and moving around on the floor, but he would not sit still for books or pictures. I can honestly say that he was a year old before he would look at books or would sit still to allow us read a short book to him. However, that did not stop us. We would read to him while he was playing. We would read to him while he was crawling. We would show him pictures and images in books any chance that we had.
Our older son, Taliesin, was diagnosed with a speech delay just before his third birthday. So we took his love for books and used it to aid with his speech skills. Today, he is six-year old and learning to read. We allow him to go at his own pace, and he learns in his own way. Sometimes this takes the form of studying phonics sounds. At other times, it takes the form of reading in whole-word readers. At other times, it's reading his favorites stories. At yet other times, it takes the form of him dictating a story as we write it down and him illustrating it (he is quite the artist). He is also writing his letters very well - both capital and lower case. Our younger son, Nathanael, does enjoy books much more now than he did as a baby. He is, however, still a mover and a shaker. Much of the time, he is playing or building with blocks or Legos as we read to him. But he always seems to comprehend what he has heard. He can answer questions about the stories he hears as he plays. He recognizes most of his alphabet to see it and is learning the sounds that the letters make. There are some books that he loves to read over and over and over. One of his favorites is the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book. I think he likes it so well because it has so much activity and imagination contained within its pages.
I have learned a lot about reading and literacy from my sons. The one thing I have definitely learned is all children learn differently - that includes learning to read. Where Taliesin loves to sit down and read book after book and story after story; Nathanael has to keep busy as he is read to. But both are learning. I agree with our textbook that literacy and pretend play go hand-in-hand. Children learn best through play. Playing, after all, is what they do best.
Where I part ways with much of traditional education is I truly believe that, even in older years and upper grades; children still learn best naturally. I am a big advocate of child-directed learning. I think children learning something in a forced environment is anything but an enjoyable experience. I believe that children should have a say in what they want to read. If they want to read from a reader, that is fine. If they prefer The Cat in the Hat, Madeline, The Lord of the Rings, or even a comic book; that is fine, too. Reading should be an enjoyable experience. I believe, so many times, children have difficulties learning to read or keeping an interest in reading once they learn; because they are forced to learn a certain way or forced to read things that they are not interested in.
Right now, my sons and I are in the process studying using some Dr. Seuss unit studies we found online. They are having so much fun! Just today, we read about the prejudice Sneetches, about the pride of "Yertle the Turtle," and the bragging of the rabbit and the bear in "The Big Brag." We then talked about how pride can affect us all, and read the Bible story of the Tower of Babel. We then talked about how prejudice is an aweful thing and read in the newspaper about how people celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But it won't stop there. Later today, we are going grocery shopping to purchase supplies to make blueberry pancakes and chocolate chip/oatmeal cookies that they found in their Disney children's cookbook. The key to these studies is they are things that my sons are interested in. They combine literacy and real life. They keep it real. They are definitely child-directed studies.
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