English: Children_reading (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It is with hearts aflutter that we hear our B.C. ministry of education would like our number one goal for 2013 to be on teaching literacy skills to our primary students. In their strategic plan the top goals include literacy, healthy living, special needs, sustainability, and employment creation. By 2015/16 B.C. would like to have all kindergarten students entering school "ready to learn"!
With cutbacks to teacher librarians in public schools, it is ironic that this educational theme is being played out based on FSA scores in the last few years, compared to the global average. As statistics have strongly conveyed over the years schools with full time teacher librarians have better readers!
Working for a private school like HCS Schools I have come to appreciate that home schoolers who have the time it takes (10 000 hours according to Gladwell in his book "The Outliers" to find achievement in one area), will become stronger readers and have better reading comprehension. I can attest that seeing my students who are allowed to read for longer than an hour a day, will become advanced readers at a much younger age. Along with the improved reading skills the writing skills go hand in hand, as the vocabulary recognition is absorbed.
So how do we encourage reading in our primary students?
1. We role model reading in our homes. We read for our own literary needs, and we read to our younger students. Listening to a great reader is a wonderful, and most pleasurable activity, building relationship between audience and reader.
Auditory discrimination is an important skill and according to my remedial optometrist, the first skill a child should learn. The physical foundations for visual tracking skills are only in place by the end of grade three, and so if you have a slow reader remember that auditory comes first!
So with this in mind explore your school or public library for audio books, and listen together as a family. Remember the comfy couch theory and create excitement and bonding with your little ones, as you discover the visual, smorgasbord of picture books. Attachment is the first step to reading enjoyment. Allow your little ones to tell the story by asking open ended questions. Read with drama and passion! Discover great poetry, play with words and teach your children nursery rhymes.
2. We attach importance to libraries and we encourage lots of visits to story times, bonding with teacher librarians, joining a book club or buddy reading times. Reading takes time and along with that comes patience. If you don't have patience then find a grandparent or older sibling who does, and encourage mentoring this way!
3. We promote literacy and writing. We praise work ethic and reward longer reading periods. We encourage our students to join book clubs, enter read-a-thons, write book reviews, make book trailers, and even create library kits. This year one of my students (an aspiring librarian) has written her first book club kit and we are going to house it in our virtual library!
4. We find tools that advocate literacy, like apps, movies, games (Scrabble), cartoons, video games (which encourage reading manuals), websites like Storybird, ABCYa and Starfall to help teach some of those intricate phonics skills, and e books which make for great visual and audio fodder. For more reading suggestions go to our web linking library.
5. We read classics to our children along with the Bible. Starting with the best books first always inspires great readers! If you need help with suggestions contact our team of learning commons specialists, and we will be glad to assist you with recommendations.
My prayer for our province and for all our schools is that this year will be the year of great literacy for all of our students! That our ministry will stand by its word to improve the lives of all students, by encouraging the role of teacher librarians, and reinstating the means to include funding for their roles in our schools. To our school and our students I say let us dream big for a great year of reading ahead!
Pippa and the learning commons team!