I (Yiola) am interested in early literacy for a number of reasons: my area of expertise is elementary education; I was an early years teacher for ten years; my own children are now in early years programs; and, I believe that understanding literacy in the early years is foundational for understanding teaching and learning.
With recent discussions going on about early years literacy programs and talk of play versus direct instruction; and, exploration and social development versus academic rigour (neither of which I believe are true binaries but instead call for a thoughtful consideration of a developmental and critically rich fusion) I am compelled to think about reading in the early years. You see, it seems to me parents are often in a panic if their child is not reading and more and more I am hearing of excited parents proudly sharing that their child was reading at 3 or 4 while other parents are silently panicking if their child is not reading by 6 years of age.
I often think back to when I was a classroom teacher and I recall the complex yet carefully crafted time sensitive processes for reading acquisition. I also clearly remember having a Reading Recovery Program at our school and watching our first and second graders enter and exit the program with a good degree of improvement and development. Most children would come out of reading recovery with gains. The very few who did not required further testing and support that went beyond the readiness phenomenon.
In my readings I came across this interesting article about Reading Recovery and the relevance of levelled texts, phonological processing AND comprehension as all significant components of early reading development.
Here is the article in full: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9817.12041/epdf
This reading reminded me that there needs to be an amalgamation of approaches and strategies in the early years classroom. More and more I think that the programming and planning of early years teachers is by far their greatest challenge – not deciding upon play versus directed learning – knowing how to plan in ways that are engaging, that tap into curiosities and children’s questions and that allow for literacy rich exploration while also ensuring time for literacy focused experienced.
Over the holidays I (Clive) have had a chance to do some novel reading, and have read murder mysteries by J. K. Rowling (The Silkworm) and Elizabeth George (For the Sake of Elena). I enjoyed these novels, especially the first, but these authors – bless their hearts – like to put in a lot of social commentary, ideas about life, personal interest, etc. This can be very interesting and educational or quite aggravating, depending on one’s interests – so I did a lot of skimming (especially in Elena).
This made me think that in schooling and even university we don’t spend enough time teaching students to skim. We need to encourage them to “take charge” of their studies and reading life, rather than seeing complete coverage as the ideal. Smith and Wilhelm in their wonderful 2002 book Reading don’t fix no Chevys note that working class teenage boys often don’t like to read because the books we assign are too long. Skimming could help solve this problem. Similarly, doctoral students often take far too long on their literature review because they still don’t realize that one can and often must skim.
So let’s skim more – even in reading the daily news, in print or online – and encourage our students to do the same. It can make your day, and your holidays!
I am looking forward to reading the recently released Dr. Seuss book entitled What Pet Should I Get? His widow Audrey discovered the manuscript and illustrations a few years ago, however, it is believed that Seuss originally created the work between 1958 and 1962. A New York Times review describes the book as “short and Seuss-ish” and “filled with creatures both real and zany.” Another book to share with the student teachers in the primary division.
Link to the review:
I came across the graphic below on Twitter entitled Helping Students Find the Right Book. It reminded me of our pre-service P/J and J/I literacy courses yesterday in which we discussed the place of the novel study in the classroom and the importance of engaging students in the reading of a variety of genres.
Norman Bridwell the writer and illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books passed away Friday, at the age of 86. The popular children’s books have sold more than a 120 million copies worldwide. I have fond memories of borrowing Clifford books from my primary school library and reading about the loveable giant dog’s adventures. Initially publisher Scholastic only “offered the Clifford story through book clubs and school fairs.” The Clifford books eventually became available in stores in the 1980s. Bridwell suggested “Clifford’s imperfections were part of his appeal, making kids more forgiving of their own mistakes.”
Link to Toronto Star article to learn more about Norman Bridwell:
A GTA first grade teacher, Asa Schoondenbeek, is one of 35 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. Mr. Schoondenbeek began a lunchtime reading club for first and second grade boys at his school. During his lunch hour he dresses up as a superhero and reads to boys who choose to be in the club. One of the young boys in the club told CBC News that the reading program is fun because “you get to read and you get to pick any book we want to read.” Parents and the school’s community council nominated Schoondenbeek for the award because they appreciated his efforts and commitment to students.
Link to the CBC news story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/asa-schoonderbeek-wins-prime-minister-s-award-for-teaching-excellence-1.2798451
On a recent walk I noticed the front lawn of a home in my neighborhood proudly exhibits a quaint little wooden structure perched a top a post, which at first glance looked like an oversized bird house, however, upon closer examination I noticed that the petite house is full of books and displays a sign that invites passersby to take a book and return a book. The small wooden house is part of the Little Free Library initiative, a not-for-profit organization that promotes literacy, a love of reading, and a sense of community. The project began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a former teacher who loved reading. He filled the model schoolhouse with books and put it on a post in his front yard. According the website www.littlefreelibrary.org “a loyal cadre of volunteers made it possible to expand the organizational reach…. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.” Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or a community literacy initiative that you would like to share?
This Washington Post article features former school principal Joanne Yatvin’s thoughts on why it is important to provide students with the opportunity to self-select texts and to have designated time in the school day for independent reading. Yatvin notes that in many US schools the practice of independent reading “has been abandoned in favor of systematic programs that promise to raise student test scores.” Link to article: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/08/why-kids-should-choose-their-own-books-to-read-in-school
What are your thoughts — do you consider independent reading to be an important part of a literacy program?
Last week CBC news profiled the organization Literature for Life, which offers weekly Reading Circle programs to young mothers in various shelters and community centres across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The Literature for Life website explains that the program is committed to helping young moms in high-needs neighborhoods across the city “develop a practice of reading in order to access opportunities and achieve economic stability”. The moms participating in the Reading Circles meet weekly, along with a program facilitator, to engage in discussions and writing activities about books that are relevant to their lives. The program also hopes that participating moms will share their enthusiasm for reading with their children. To date, approximately “2,200 moms have participated in the Reading Circles and more than 20,000 books have been distributed” (http://www.literatureforlife.org).