Saturday, September 27, 2014

Teach Your Preschooler to Read...with a hammer

I don't believe in making children sit in a desk to learn to read, which is totally the opposite of how I am made to teach in my full-time public school job.

At home, I teach my preschooler how to read in every possible position (sitting, standing, lying down, downward dog), but at school, my 30 students sit at desks, packed into our classroom without space to have an area on the floor to gather. (A couple of years ago, I only had 26 - only, ha ha - and the absence of two 2-seater desks made such a difference. I was able to have a rug so students could gather for read-aloud time.)

At home, the only thing that is routine is that we use the same book (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), while at school, to demonstrate that I am an "effective" teacher, I am supposed to stick to a strict routine. I don't. Though I like very much for some things to be predictable, I need to keep things interesting for myself. I need to be learning too.

Yesterday, at 4 p.m.-ish, we did our reading lesson. My 3-year-old (3 years 4 1/2 months) has been enjoying doing lessons outside, so we sat on the back porch. She had been playing with her tools, and she insisted on holding a hammer while she read. She sounded out words by tapping under each letter.

We also snack. Sometimes we have popsicles. Sometimes Trader Joe's Cinnamon Schoolbook letter cookies. Yesterday was a sliver of pumpkin spice bundt cake.

When children are taught to read from basal readers, filling out worksheets from the basal reader's corresponding workbook, they come to learn that reading is a time of day. It's something you do while sitting up straight; it's something done while uncomfortable. Public school breeds reluctant readers.

This is a term used by booksellers. "Reluctant Reader Interest" is a category of books that includes twaddle like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I'm going to tell you why I hate Diary of a Wimpy Kid - the most checked-out, asked-for book at my school library. The main character, Greg Heffley, the character the kids relate to, is not a "person" I want my child to emulate. For example, he cheats off the "smart" kid's test.

Some people argue that children who read Reluctant Reader books are still reading. Yes. True. But when they're reading Reluctant Reader Interest books to the exclusion of good books, there's a problem. You've got kids seeking comfortable books, books that don't challenge them to grow as a reader or a person, because the experience of reading has been made so uncomfortable.

I wish I had a really big porch, a lot of popsicles, and a lot of hammers.

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