It’s a common goal for teachers to try to get their students to read, but they don’t understand why most of their students hate it. But it really is their way of going about getting kids to read that turns off most kids.
I was lucky enough one of those who started reading for fun before we started getting assigned reading in the later years of elementary school. As a third grader, I worked my way slowly through Harry Potter and by fifth grade, I had the Lexile number of an eleventh grader. Needless to say, I read a lot. But that isn’t the case in a lot of other kids.
Generally, after the kids learn to read in first and second grade and start to expand their vocabulary, they immediately start getting assigned reading. In third and fourth grade, we got a thick textbook with a lot of short stories in them. We read one every week and discussed it in class. That was fine because it was fun and there were no tedious worksheets that followed. But then, as I went into fifth grade and middle school, these worksheets start popping up and we would get multiple ones for every chapter of every book that we read. We would have one that asked us about the rising action, climax and falling action of the story. We would get one about the main theme and the supporting details of each chapter. We would analyse for symbolism and diction. And none of this would be in an enjoyable almost-philosophical environment– no, in fact, it was the most boring thing ever and any of the joy you get from completing the book would be overshadowed by the fact that you have to take a test on it the next day.
So what do you do? Isn’t being able to analyse the things you’re reading a good thing? I suppose so, yes, but do it like my current AP Lang teacher does it; she first takes a normal-looking piece of literature and has us participate in picking it apart. When we’re done, we end up with an elaborate word web and the whole class gets a rigorous brain workout without the worksheets.
Throughout my high school years, I’ve known people who get stuck reading simple passages and often don’t know what they just read because they didn’t understand the words or the nuances of words put together. Then, they say that they have parents who would like them to read more. The kids aren’t entirely to blame for their aversion to reading. It’s the way they were exposed to it. For example, I was forced to sit at the dinner table and memorise the multiplication tables in the summer before third grade. I hated it. By extension, I learned to hate math because of that and also because of the way my mum would actually try to assign math homework on top of what I already have. Even now, I don’t like math and this will no doubt influence my future career choices and options.
These types of things have far-reaching consequences. Being able to communicate through complex written and spoken language is a unique trait that only humans have. It is also essential to be informed about the world in this day and age. With your ability to read limiting you to a smaller sphere of information, you’re going to miss out a lot. Make reading fun for us. Give us the wonder of Harry Potter, the thrill of Alex Rider or the sobering experience of Where the Red Fern Grows. And I promise it’s much better than worksheets. Make us think, not conform. Books are a form of expression; don’t use it to chain us to participation grades. Let kids choose the books they want and let them read at their own pace. Let us learn the fun before the work. Best of all, start your kids reading before they get forced to in school.
That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you on Wednesday.