THE ONLY REASON I GOT THROUGH THAT BOOK
The day my sister Ju discovered The Black Arrow, she was irretrievably hooked. We started reading it about the same time (ahem, taking turns, of course!). Needless to say, she finished it first (and that was only because I kept giving in to her, all right! :P). I nearly did not get through the book.
For one thing, the old English in there was almost not worth strangling myself over! All the thee‘s and thou‘s were quite enough to turn me off. The plot was all right, though a little hazy the first two times I read it through. By the time I reached the end of the book (on my first time), I was quite sure that it was my last time through. Unfortunately, I have a younger sister who didn’t let me drop it! Right after I put it down to go to dinner, she pounced on me, “Sue, where did you stop? Interesting, ah! Have you read the part where Joan… ” OH, have mercy!
I soon found myself digging into the book with vigour, and energetically dissecting the plot with Ju. She loves to take apart stories: “Sue, exactly who do you think was the man in the cloak? Hmm, I wonder, what was the rustling the boy heard? Might it have been Sir Daniel? Maybe it was a priest? Or Joan?” Good grief, I think it was the wind, lah!
But she won. Before the book was done with, I had gone through it at least three times and discussed at length every smallest detail that struck her fancy. She even managed to drag our elder sister into the discussion, which inevitably made for wilder, more imaginative ideas. From that day onward, Ju proclaimed, we were to read books together.
WHAT IS IT CALLED?
And that was my whole point: some of us social people hate doing things alone… and that includes reading! Somehow, if someone (what’s more, if mummy or daddy) shares the story, we enjoy it so much more. And what would have been a lonely, boring journey becomes a super fun experience. To get your child to read independently as he gets older, you can try shared reading. (I’ve written about shared reading before; you might want to take a little stroll off this path to take a look at it.)
WHO DOES IT WORK WITH?
In my experience, it has worked superbly well personally (as you can see in that long, rambling story above!), but also for emerging readers. I have seen it work for my youngest brother, who is now slowly reading up all the books we used to read! As he reads and comments, I recall the events in the story and discuss them with him. It makes the child feel that he has accomplished something worthwhile and appreciable when someone takes the time to get involved in his reading experience.
It has also worked beautifully with my phonics students (lower primary). As part of my lessons, I get them to read short, unthreatening stories that work on their comprehension and vocabulary at the same time. (I used to read those when I was younger; but before the lesson, I have to go back and read it to refresh my memory!) Once, I gave my student a story about American Native Indians. Evidently, it was his first encounter with American Indians (an unusual variation from his usual reading diet of ghost stories and local digest too!). We had a long discussion and an even longer exposition (by me, of course) about why Native Americans are not real Indians. At any rate, his interest was sparked (the children in the story were having a snowball fight), and he kept reading and talking all the way to the end of the story.
WILL IT WORK WITH KINDERGARTENERS?
Great question. I tell you what I know, but I won’t presume to know if I don’t. And the fact is, I haven’t tried it out yet, because my kindergarteners are not confident readers yet. Why don’t you try it out and share your results? I’d love to hear about it!
Based on the logic of shared reading, though, I would say I believe you can apply it this way: let the child read some printed text (it can be just simple words in a picture book), and discuss it with him. Discuss WHAT, Teacher Sue? Discuss how it relates to him. As soon as he begins to start reading independently (yes, even if it’s memorized, at this stage), talk about the story. Help him to relate it to his own life. Why do this?
- It sparks interest in your little one because he can relate to it (eg, going to bed, going to school, playing with friends, whatever it is)
- It boosts his comprehension. As you discuss the story, he’ll be able to ask about things he didn’t understand, and find out things he didn’t know he didn’t understand!
So try out shared reading. It’s a great way to cultivate the reading habit. By the way, if you’ve never done it seriously yourself, you should try it out with your sister, husband or anyone else who cares to try. It’s a great deal of fun!
Coming up next: Ju has her say… My younger sister “proofreads” all my newsletters and comments on them to me. Halfway through this series, she brought up an important point to me; I promised her I wouldn’t neglect it; so watch for it in the next article!