Thursday, March 20, 2014

Literacy for All Ages

My first reading pal transferred schools; his new school doesn't have the Reading Pals program.  So I've been working with a new-to-me first grader.  His grown-up reading pal couldn't complete her commitment.  I guess it's worked out, although I do miss my first reading pal.  He was making such improvement week to week.  I hope he can continue.  I realize that the improvement may have had nothing to do with my efforts.

I continue to be amazed at how the children continue to be enthusiastic about our weekly appointments.  Some books are more popular than others.  I'm also happy about the wide diversity of books, and how there does seem to be a book for every taste.

A few months ago, I was working with 2 children at once, when one grown-up was late.  They asked about my age.  I told them that forty years from now, maybe they'd be the one working with first graders and reading stories to them.  "You could be a reading pal some day," I said.

One of the children said, "Or maybe we could be cops!"

I love the different perspective that children have.  I have noticed that these children, like other children with whom I've worked, these children LOVE to color and draw.  I use the drawing time as a reward for reading. 

I try to work literacy into the drawing time too.  We draw flowers and I ask, "How do you spell flower?"  I hope that I'm helping first graders achieve better literacy, but I can't be sure.

Yesterday, my friend who is teaching early American literature talked about her reading/rediscovery of Frederick Douglass.  He figured out as a slave child that he needed to learn to read.  He worked on a plantation where there was plenty of food, so he'd take scraps of bread to the waterfront, and he'd trade bread for reading lessons from the children who were around the docks.  He practiced writing by using copybooks leftover from the plantation owner's sons.  He got so good that it's hard to tell the difference between their writings.

I thought about literacy, how valuable it is, how hard to teach it to students who would rather draw and color.  Along the way, I've been reminded of how strange the English language is--if you don't believe me, try explaining the word "neighbors" to a first grader.

At the end of the day, a colleague asked me if I'd heard of Flat Stanley.  I love that story!  He told me of a project that his nephew is doing, where they trace themselves and mail flat versions of themselves to relatives who will take photos of Flat children in different locations.  My colleague is having great fun planning Flat ___________'s Florida vacation.

I imagine that these kinds of projects make children more enthusiastic about literacy.  It makes me think of our college age students, a startling number of whom are still having problems with literacy.  How can we bring them up to speed?  How can we make literacy fun for them?

1 comment:

Wendy said...

It has been so much fun watching my daughter learn to read. In a way I knew it would be, but the satisfaction I have watching her grab her book in off moments is that of a doting mom who loves that her daughter can do something that will bring so much pleasure, and also, I suppose, of seeing myself in her (finally!). Working with her, I do realize all over again how crazy the English language is (especially since she is reading and writing in Spanish in school). Having studied the History of the English Language and Old and Middle English, I get this more than most people do and can even explain some of the idiosyncrasies, but it's pretty insane. She can read it because she has the vocabulary, but trying to write it is tough. It's been interesting and So Much Fun! Enjoy those reading pals!