Language is such a huge gift that God has given us. I begin every school year the same as I did in all my years of teaching reading and writing...with a question.
Do you think God is interested at all in language? Do you ever wonder if He thinks good reading habits are important to attain?
Of course the answer is YES! He spoke with words and talked to Adam in the garden in the very beginning of it all! It is so exciting to see the emphasis our Heavenly Father placed on these skills. He has inspired the most popular book to be written for our encouragement and understanding. It is so much about who God is! As we practice reading and writing, we are enhancing a part of us that pleases the Father so that our communication with Him and the people He created becomes more effective.
Teaching both ends of the spectrum, from acquisition of good reading skills to improvement of those skills, I have noticed a few trends in children’s reading development. Here are a few of my observations:
· Children develop their love (or hate) of reading from an emotional attachment developed prior to formal schooling. Those students who tell me about their favorite stories are usually talking about literature they were exposed to before Kindergarten. Students that love reading often do because someone who “means a lot to them” or who they are “extremely fond of” has taken the time to read with them. More often than not, my students who love reading, regardless of skill level, love it because they experienced it at home and then continue to be exposed to it in the classroom.
· Students often hear or read books but do not understand the message of the words. Simply put, true reading is understanding the writer’s message. In the elementary years, as students are developing their ability to not only read the words on a page but understand the message, it’s important for teachers and loved ones alike to help build meaning to what is read. This could be as simple as talking about a story after it is read through discussing questions about the story. When students engage in understanding of the message and not just words that are written, they get excited!
· There is nothing more encouraging to teachers than to see students who want to share about a book they have read, are reading, or have read with someone. Talking about a book’s story and characters helps young readers further make meaning of what they’re reading. As parents and teachers, it’s important to engage with our students in what they are reading.
· Another thing I have noticed is that students love reading more when they make connections to the content. Parents may look at their student’s interests and seek out good materials that help them either learn more or gives them a good place to use their imagination. If your child loves dinosaurs, seek out a wide variety of dino-themed stories (fiction and non-fiction) to stoke and bolster that interest. Making connections is part of the cognitive learning process. Parents stimulate this by exposing their children to reading in all formats.
· One of my goals as a librarian is to get to know my students’ interests, help them grow in those interests, and also encourage them to explore other interests. Many students come in loving one particular genre. As the year goes by, I try to stretch students’ reading interest and expose them to other genres. A student lost in fantasy reading may benefit from exploring realistic fiction or non-fiction reading. I consider it a victory if students find another genre that also holds their interest because then they begin to broaden their horizon. There is a whole world out there waiting for them. I believe parents can really help with this at home. As they pick and choose classics, books they loved as children, or just wholesome reading, the children have a better view of what kinds of things they can learn about.
· Children so often mimic what they see. The practice of parents reading for their own pleasure or growth impacts children. When students grow up watching parents read for various reasons, they begin to think of it as an important skill that they want to develop, too. Most habits are formed as we observe others with the same habits, reading included.
As parents, grandparents, other loved ones and teachers make reading fun, interactive, and interesting, children will begin to carve out their own time for reading and further develop those crucial language acquisition skills.