Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Training: The Heart of It All

Today in training we had a special treat.

In the afternoon, the director of the teaching division of IRD was with us, and he spent an hour talking to us about the importance of reading to the development of a child. It was an informative and passionate talk that reminded us all of why we had chosen this commitment, delivered at that time when we were all feeling more than a bit tired, albeit willing to soldier on. But we needed the philosophical justification to balance all of the technical teaching nitty-gritty that we had been focused on.

I remember the tone more than the actual words, but here is some of what I do remember.

Fifty years ago, and more, young people 18-22 were the demographic group that read the most in the United States Now, they are the least likely to pick up a book. To me, this is sad beyond words.

There is a great deal of research that shows that the paths of readers and non-readers diverge after the summer between 4th and 5th grade. Those kids who love reading will begin reading voraciously--and over the next year read tens of thousand to a million words. These readers will gain more and more fluency and reading speed, and will come to love immersing themselves in books, and thus gain very important cultural, personal and spiritual value from their reading. Those kids who do not love reading will read only what is required and never for pleasure. They will lose ground in many important ways, and are likely to never experience the joy and pleasure of reading. They are also far less likely to develop the value systems that come from immersion in reading of great fiction and literature. So our students who are entering the 4th or 5th grade next fall, and particularly those who are struggling readers, present a small window of opportunity to us to help them become readers relatively painlessly. We do work with older kids as well, but in those situations we must do a great deal of catching them up in their technical skills as well as teaching them to love books. This presents a far greater challenge, although it is doable.

I will have more to say about this in the coming weeks but I really wanted to share this tidbit with you.

Also, as I had my fingerprinting done--all of us must have a background check to work with children--the technician out from IRD's Novato office noticed that I had been a school teacher before teaching for the institute. He said, "My wife's a teacher, and she sometimes comes with me on these trips and hears some of the training you are doing. She says that all teachers should get this kind of training."

I had to agree. It is difficult for those of us with old habits that must be changed, but the more I grok (remember that word?) the logic of the curriculum, and the beauty and economy with which it is put together (there are no superfluous words or activities in the lessons), the more I can imagine the transformations it can accomplish with our students. I am learning so much about teaching that will transfer to any other teaching I will ever do.

I am still a novice, but I am learning to teach reading from the philosophy of immersion.

Every lesson, every word we will say has the ultimate aim of developing in our students the capacity and the desire to immerse themselves in books.

Today, I am feeling grateful to have the opportunity to learn like this.
Today's Chicago picture is of the Chicago Theatre in the Loop.
The small picture here is the same--I accidently posted the thumbnail version, and I can't figure out how to delete pictures.


Unknown said...

this kind of stuff used to make me feel badly. I read to my kids every day, many books daily... and they still read late and have dyslexia. I felt like beating my head against a wall with all the experts telling me they'd not have these prblems if I had read to them more. Now I just tell myself how much worse off they could have been if I never read to them. Gavin never wanted to read. now he devours books. I hope the other two get to be more like that..
****** regarding our move******* we move in 2 weeks. it's just been a stresfull month and so I haven;t been having the kids do much at all. but Ki gets lots of bad math days- from the stress and change- but our online subscription is up for now and he did a lot of review and that was better for him.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Ah, Kaber. My post is not about children with dyslexia. Dyslexia has neurological roots, and dyslexic children have great difficulties with phonemic awareness that are not fully understood. The traditional methods for teaching reading do not work for people with dyslexia. The research that I was talking about was done with children who do not have any of the learning disabilities. You have nothing to feel badly about.

As for your move, I am amazed that you are able to anything with your kids while you prepare yourself and the kids for the move.