When I thought about how to start my commentary relating to The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease, I sat for a long time not knowing where to start. There's so much I need to say, and breaking it down into pieces would not be easy.
So, I decided to start with the following excerpt from the introduction of the book:
"Contrary to the doctrine that blames teachers for reading scores, research shows that the seeds of reading and school success are sown in the home, long before the child ever arrives at school." (page xv)
Parents, whether they choose to believe it or not, are their children's most influential teachers. There's no training for their role, though, and they start the moment their children are born.
Children watch and learn from EVERYTHING a parent says and does. So, if parents want to raise readers and learners, they have to be readers and learners themselves.
When it comes to literacy, many parents already have many of the tools they need:
- The ability to speak.
- The ability to listen.
- The ability to write.
- The ability to sing.
- The ability to express emotions.
- The ability to use words to resolve conflicts.
- The ability to read.
- The DESIRE to read to themselves and others, and be read TO.
- A public library card.
The last three items on the list are the ones which seem to be lacking most often. What do all of the items on this list have in common, though?
They all require the use of words or gestures.
The bottom line is that words have far more power than any worksheet, phonics exercise, or gadget ever will. It's as simple as that.
Don't get me wrong, there is a place for phonics instruction; but unless a love of reading and communicating is developed beforehand, the teaching of specific letter sounds will be pretty meaningless. Please refer to pages 7 through 12 of The Read-Aloud Handbook for more information about this controversy.
If you're familiar with the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, you know that the tortoise wins the race. Why then, do so many of us seem to live our lives like the hare?
We're busy. We rush. We race to get our hands on the next miracle product or gadget. But what are we left with in the end? A child who has no idea how much fun it is to read or learn.
The most disturbing trend I've seen in local schools is that too many children THINK they hate to read. If only their parents had shown them the way of the tortoise.
The world is changing faster and faster every day, and some would have us convinced that life is one big race. There seem to be way too many hares in this world these days.
It's up to parents to raise the readers and leaders of tomorrow. If we want to create a better world, we have to stop relying on other people to help our children to learn and grow. It's a big responsibility; but we have the tools we need to change the world, one child at a time...
Are you with me?
Please note that, aside from the quote above, these words and thoughts are all my own. Since I was able to personally relate to Jim Trelease's book in so many ways, I decided to write this series of reflective posts. Here's the first one in this series, in case you missed it: The One Book We All Should Read.