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Posts Tagged ‘value of reading’

Being one of those people who likes to make a noise – constantly – about the value of reading and being one who just doesn’t understand why it is that the entire education sector doesn’t get the message about the value and importance of reading in the overall school curriculum, I couldn’t resist posting a tweet together with this infographic a couple of weeks ago:

Take note school admins! Haven’t TLs been saying this for years?

Reading-habits-that-lead-to-success-full-infographic-840x7634

One thing’s for sure though – I intend sharing it with my students at school!  It’s too much of a gem to not share!!

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As schools across Australia brace for the annual NAPLAN tests to measure basic literacy skills, opinion articles analyzing the reason for declining reading levels among our teens start popping up.

A recent article by Christopher Bantick: Why parents must unplug their kids to improve their literacy suggests that ever increasing screen time spent by teens in front of smartphones, tablets and computers is a significant factor contributing to low reading levels.  Parents, it is intimated, need to  encourage their children to switch off and read more in the home.

What would help would be if families read together.  A half-hour reading period where every member of the family read, sends a very positive message.

….. To get kids to read is not about ordering them to do so, but modelling behaviour. If parents don’t value reading, or privilege it over screens, it is hardly any wonder than children do not?”

I totally agree with Bantick.

While peer pressure can be very strong, behaviour traits learned and acquired at home are most often more powerful life lessons.  So reading to children from a young age, valuing print in the home, reading together as a family, sharing literature read – are all very powerful ways to implant the value of reading into the minds and habits of our children.

But ….. modelling reading habits at school is just as important!

Bantick suggests that schools “manage children in classrooms and the range of activities that they are asked to do. Reading is one of them.”

Really?

I’m yet to be convinced that reading is really valued in our secondary schools!  Competing demands of completing curriculum content or analyzing texts (to death) seem to predominate whenever I’ve found myself in discussion with teachers.   So, I’m left asking:

  • How much reading is really happening in secondary classrooms?
  • Does reading only ‘happen’ in English classes?
  • Is reading being incorporated in subject across the curriculum?
  • Are students encouraged to read widely beyond their comfort zone?
  • Do teachers model reading to their students?
  • How many classes start their periods with a 10-15 minute reading session?
  • How many teachers themselves put aside time to read?
  • How many teachers read YA literature?
  • How often do teachers chat about books and reading with their students?
  • Indeed – do our teachers value reading?

Sure – reading within families is important, but reading within our school communities is equally important!  If NAPLAN reading literacy levels for our teens are to improve, an increased emphasis on reading needs to occur in our secondary schools.  Reading is the cornerstone of all education.

Reflecting on the message of Fleur Morrison’s recent Huffington Post article Anyone who says they are too busy to read is talking fiction may go a long way to help sway educators to make a shift in what and how they operate in secondary school.

Mark Zuckerberg spent 2015 reading a new book every two weeks. Bill Gates consider himself a great reader and Barack Obama packed six books when he went on his summer holiday last year.  Former White House reident Theodore Roosevelt famously conumed one book a day when he was busy, and two or three when had a free evening.

And yet, whenever the issue of reading comes up among my friends and family, it seems like everyone says they don’t have time to read books …..”

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It was early December last year that a newspaper headline screamed out at me:

Teach teens to read, NAPLAN chief warns”

Finding the same article online (The Age. December 2, 2015) the headline had been toned down a little:

NAPLAN chief says first step to better results is teaching teenagers to read”

The message however is the same: students need to be taught to read throughout their school years, not just up to Year 2, which, it is said, is a common occurrence in schools across our country.

Following a report on the controversial NAPLAN testing conducted throughout Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 which indicates that reading levels beyond Year 7 are stagnating, ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) general manager, Stanley Rabinowitz, comments that as students get to higher levels there needs to be an emphasis on not just reading to learn but learning to read. 

The assumption is that because we think they are reading, we don’t have to do reading instruction in years 7 and 9.”

I have long argued that reading is the cornerstone of all education.  I’ve talked about this at conferences and endlessly with work colleagues in schools in which I’ve taught.   I’ve blogged long and hard over the years about the importance of reading and the necessity to create an atmosphere that inspires our students to read.

Over the years, I’ve put my words into action by creating a range of innovative and inspiring reading programs within those schools I’ve worked.   Most of all though, I talk with the students in my classes each and every time I have the pleasure of sharing with them in my library.  I talk with them about the importance of reading and the immeasurable joy and knowledge that can be gained from reading. Without a doubt, I tell them

Read a book ….. Learn about the world!”
There’s no doubt in my mind that reading is the key to successful educational achievement.  Resources poured into education seem misdirected if they are not supporting this basic key skill.  Our students need to not just be taught to read, but to be inspired and encouraged to read.  A positive and inspiring reading climate in each and every school must be created.
  • Saturate students with books.
  • Inundate students with positive role models.
  • Make reading a ‘cool’ activity.
  • Initiate enticing book events.
  • Talk lots about books, authors and writing.
  • Encourage a whole school reading involvement.
  • Utilize the enthusiasm & expertise of Teacher Librarians.
  • Talk regularly about the value of reading.
  • Create reading opportunities during the school day.
  • Invite – often – authors, illustrators & storytellers to the school.

There’s no room for complacency.  Programs designed to encourage reading should come with no strings attached.  Negative overtones should not enter the picture.

A fascinating discussion about education was recently presented by Fareed Zakaria in his regular CNN broadcast.  Reporting on the merit of Australia’s announcement for a bold new school curriculum which gave more prominence to coding over history and geography, Zakaria moved the discussion on to the importance of developing workers who not only had skills but learned how to interact, relate and communicate with others.  “Succeeding at work and in life is more complicated” he says “than simply learning to code.”  Distinguishing between ‘relationship workers’ and ‘knowledge workers’ he emphasized the importance of students learning to interact with people.   A powerful tool to develop these skills is reading.

Reading fiction with complex characters and stories trains us to observe others and empathize with other people … which is why many medical schools are requiring that their students read fiction to become better doctors. (at 3.17 mins)

Fareed Zakaria-What in the world- Coding vs humanities

It is encouraging to hear the voice of a highly reputed social analyst support what Teacher Librarians have been saying for a very long time.

Encourage our students to read.  Inculcate reading across the school curriculum rather than relegating it to the sidelines of school programs.

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