How can we get kids to become “readers”?
by Elaine Gallagher, PhD Today we have a pertinent question that was received this week from a Coach in Mexico. Since it may apply to […]
by Elaine Gallagher, PhD
Today we have a pertinent question that was received this week from a Coach in Mexico. Since it may apply to many of you who are teachers, or academic coaches, it will be the topic of this week’s ENGLISH CORNER.
Hi. Can you help me again?
RIGHT NOW MY MAIN GOAL IS TO BUILD READING SKILLS WITH MY TEACHERS, BOTH IN ENGLISH AND IN SPANISH..
I THINK TEACHERS ARE “TEACHING” READING TO THEIR STUDENTS, BUT THEY ARE NOT DEVELOPING THE SKILLS AS SUGGESTED IN OUR UNO BOOKS. THEY HAVE KIDS READ ALOUND, “ROUND ROBIN” STYLE. NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION, THERE ARE NO THOUGHT-PROVOKING QUESTIONS, NO EXPLANATIONS OR ELABORATIONS OF VOCABULARY, NO STIMULATION. IT’S AS IF THE TEACHERS, THEMSELVES, AREN’T THAT INTERESTED IN READING.
IT´S MY THEORY THAT MAYBE THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY READING AND WRITING GET THE LOWEST AVERAGES DURING THE CAMBRIDGE EVALUATION, AT LEAST IN MY SCHOOLS.
I KNOW, MANY SAY THAT MEXICANS ARE NOT USED TO READING AND WRITING, NOT EVEN IN SPANISH. IT’S OBVIOUSLY A WEAK AREA, EXEMPLIFIED BY THE FACT THAT MANY TEACHERS HAVE LITTLE PERSONAL INTEREST IN READING, AND THEIR WRITING SKILLS ARE NOT WELL-DEVELOPED, EITHER.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS VICIOUS CYCLE? IT’S TIME TO DO SOMETHING, WE CAN´T KEEP THIS ANTIQUATED IDEA, THIS EXCUSE, THAT “MEXICANS DON’T HAVE A READING HABIT” …PASSING FROM GENERATIN TO GENERATION….YET, WE DO NOTHING TO BREAK THE CYCLE..
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?
THANK YOU, AS ALWAYS.
Dear Coach M.,
To get kids to be readers, we need parents & teachers who are readers!
The #1 thing I suggest to break this cycle of the lack of interest in reading – both in English & Spanish or Portuguese or other language – is this:
Every single day, part of the daily routine, every pre-school and primary teacher MUST read aloud, a story, or a chapter of a longer story, to their students, even after the students are already able t oread. “STORY-TIME”, about 10 or 15 minutes a day, perhaps after lunch, or right after recess, or at the end of the day before leaving, whenever, but at a regular, orogrammed time, every day.
There should be absolutely no excuse. “I don’t have time”, is a lazy teacher’s way of saying, “I don’t believe that reading aloud o my students is important for their academic development.”
STORYTIME is for the pure enjoyment of books……not for presenting new vocabulary, not for critical thinking questions, not to tell or write a summary of what had been read. No, no, no…..pure enjpyment , relaxation, children looking at pictures in the book being read, or painting imaginary scenes in their heads as the teacher reads aloud descriptive phrases in the story.
In the USA, Canada, or much of Europe, where many adults enjoy reading, as evidenced by how many people you see reading at the beach, on a plane, bus, or subway, STOREYTIME, for the past 50 years or more, is parrt of every classroom, public & private.
Yet, sadly, in Mexico, to UNO teachers, to SEP teachers, to teachers in general, I often ask, “How many of you read aloud to your students, every day, just for their enjoyment?”
A rare teacher, perhaps 1 or 2 out of 75, answer with, “Yes.”
Almost all say, “No”, or “Once a week, if the kids have been good”, or “If we have time, and they finish all the work, I read to them.”
Last year, in Mexico, I spoke at a conference only for pre-school UNO teachers. There were 45 Kinder – Pre-school teachers in attendance. Note ven one teacher could honestly answer, “YES”, they read to their students every day.
So how can we expect to have readers among our students when teachers are not building the love of reading, the enjoyment of reading?
There are three actions that can help to support readers.
- Let pre-schools and Kindergarten become a time of fun, games, play, verbal development, activities in art and music, dance, physical education, oral vocabulary development in English and a second language, using picture flash cards, real tangible ítems, using songs, nursery rhymes, videos, apps, digital tools, like games on i-Pad, social interaction, collaborative activities, developing listening skills, constructing with blocks, measuring sand, un-cooked rice….a wide spectrum of fun-to-do, interesting things, and provide some unstructured time, too, every day.
With this kind of an environment, with rich input, children will love school, and will be eager tp learn to read, maybe even “reading” before the teacher has taught formal Reading lessons.
- Read daily to the children, for sheer enjoyment of the printed words, read aloud by the teacher or other adult. No quiz, no summary, no vocabulary to learn..Simply read aloud, to build strong listenind skills and to develop an extended vocabulary.
- The texts or digital material must be user-friendly, attractive pictures, large, black print, interesting , with short discussion activities, (5 items maximum). “Talking Tom”, for an i-pad, is terrific, and it’s free! My 3-1/2 year old great-grandson, Landon, asks for “Tom” whenever I go to visit him. Needless to say, I’m getting Landon an i-pad for Christmas, with “Tom” already installed!
Looking again at what you wrote,
“WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS?
IT’S TIME TO DO SOMETHING, WE CAN´T KEEP THIS IDEA
FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION AND DO NOTHING,
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?”
I strongly suggest that the UNO Coaches push, insist, demand, encourage, and expect that every teacher (pre-K, K, 1st – 6th grade) set aside 15 minutes every day to have “STORY TIME”.
It can be a story read aloud to the students by the teacher, by an invited “guest reader”, such as a parent or grand-parent, or an audio CD of a story read aloud by a profesional story-reader. It could even be an older student, from a higher grade who reads well, and loves to read aloud. It could be a story or a legend that the teacher tells to the students (without a book). The concept is that the students gather daily, to relax, to listen, to enjoy “Story Time”.
Logically, Story Time in English needs to be conducted in English. Story Time in Spanish or Portuguese classes needs to be conducted in the language of the class. In this way, every child will have 30 minutes a day (in two languages) to enjoy stories. Over time, this one technique will make the changes you seek.
Coach M., thank you for your question!
This is an important topic, one close to my heart, because I love reading. In my memory, I clearly can record “story time”. It was how I learned to love stories. In Kindergarten (only one year of Kinder in USA, age 6), and in 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades of primary, all the stories were from individual story-books, with pictures, drawings, photos.
In 4th grade, our teachers began using “chapter books”, with few if any pictures. At first, I was disappointed. Pictures had helped me to visualize the story and its characters. In a week or so, however, as the teacher read one entire chapter each day, I got interested and involved in the story.
My school, Saint Patrick School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (USA), went from 1st grade of primary to 8th grade of middle school. Our one year of Kindergarten was in the public school system, and, since our city of Portsmouth was small, (25,00 people) the only high school option was the public high school.
From 4th – 8th grade, our teachers read chapter books, a chapter, every single day, after lunch, for us to relax and enjoy. The entire school had story time at the same time, after lunch. This was 60 years ago, and the custom there is still alive!
I wonder how many generations of readers were shaped? This was where and when I learned to love “Green Grass of Wyoming”, “The Secret Garden”, and “Heidi”. Story Time was where my imagination became alive, painting visual images during the readings of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Robin Hood”, “The Time Machine”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, and “Sherlock Holmes”.
We can, and should, do the same thing in Mexico. It doesn’t cost any money. We need coaches and school directors dedicated to enticing, pushing, encouraging, supporting, demanding, advocates of daily story time. Get teachers out of their comfort zones. There can be no excuse accepted for weak, minimal-effort teaching.
A football coach does the same thing to get a winning team. He pushes, encourages, supports, and demands the best from his team!
Fear has no place in good coaching.
So, get out there, teachers, coaches, school directors!
Instigate, initiate, and implement STORY TIME in your schools!
- If any readers want a book about story telling (68 pages), that I wrote about 8 years ago, given free to the SEP English teachers in Coahuila, just write to me, asking for it. I’ll send it within a few days.
- If you want some read-aloud short stories, I also wrote for the SEP English teachers, write to me. I’ll send them. email@example.com