Reading is probably my very favorite thing to do. I feel like I have snuck books around all my life: in class, the movies, the bathtub, the shower, at the park (where I was told to “go play and stop reading for crying-out-loud”).
This is most likely one of the reasons I detest forcing young children to sit down and “learn to read”. Many kids just fall into it quickly and at a young age but others need more time, time without pressure, time with finding the enjoyment that books are, hanging out with friends on the carpet, savoring books together, having one child read while the others follow along, at their pace, in their time reference of reading excitement.
This has to be the biggest struggle for parents. We are not a typical school, we lie outside the prescribed ways of “teaching”. But parents get scared. It’s understandable. Everything you hear or read is if your child isn’t reading in kindergarten then they are behind forever. And possibly if they are in public school where nearly everything is in print, this may be the case. But here, in this classroom (or outside of the classroom), if your child stays with us from K-2nd grade, they will not just be readers that can sound out words to be on track, they will be lovers of language, obsessive book worms, falling into story and rolling around in it. The pressure is off.
There are the kids who have special circumstances going on for them and they often need another course of action, which includes tools that help them past the road blocks that are between them and the written word. But most of the time, kids just need hands on experience with print, shared experiences with print, writing as much as reading, since many kids learn to read by learning to sound out and write words, they need a reason to need it such as wanting to put their Lego set together and needing to be able to read the directions. This need is something that always arises naturally.
The drive for knowledge and understanding is so instinctual, that by seven they are digging into the written word with all they’ve got. I know our class incites the love of reading, books and the written word. Almost all of the kids who have gone through my class and didn’t read until late 1st grade or early 2nd grade, were reading large novels by the summer of their second grade year and when we’d go to the park, they would tote their books with them, when we had a few minutes between projects, they were on the carpet with their beloved books, many days I have had my older kids walk in the door for school and I can’t see their face past the book they are reading, while walking and putting away their lunch boxes.
So let’s all try to think about reading in a different way; an exploration, a fascination, a wonderment, a need to know, seeing their friends grasp onto the love of it, seeing us adults read and read not only to them but to ourselves, letting them come to it with passion and want. Nothing is more interesting to my kids than the books that I am reading laying on my desk. They want to know what I know, see what I see, hear the stories that make me feel passionate about reading.
We went to the park on Thursday and I couldn’t stop thinking about the books I’ve been reading, so I grabbed some favorite books, some blankets in the backpack and just wanted to see what would happen. I laid it all out and sat down in the sun. The kids began to wander over and ask what was going on. And then a line formed to read with me. We basked in the sun and read and read and read. The kids read to me. They read to each other. They helped each other with words they didn’t know. They begged to be next. They were proud. They were happy. They were choosing to read over running around the playground acting out stories they already know and love.
Reading is the best. Especially while laying in the grass, in the sun, relaxed, enjoying the stories. You can see us in our natural element here…