Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reading Magic

This book is my homework for a short course I’m taking to prepare me to teach mothers in the homeless shelter how to read to their children. It’s made me think a lot about my introduction to books as a child.

I grew up in a literate family that didn’t read more than the newspaper, didn’t go to the library, and didn’t talk about books. I remember having some Little Golden Books and a volume called “A Child’s Garden of Verse.” But that’s where the memory of my childhood “library” stops.

I distinctly remember coloring an entire page in one of those books black as I waited (to be read to?) for my mother to get off the phone.

The only story I can remember enjoying was the story of Little Black Sambo. That’s not true. I remember The Little Engine That Could also.

It’s no small wonder that I couldn’t read at all when I went to first grade. I don’t recall any difficulty in learning, but I was certainly not above grade level when I entered school.

By 3rd grade I was reading quite advanced books and soon thereafter demanded to be taken to the public library. Of course my parallel memory of the public library was of the warnings my mother gave me about the adjacent public bathrooms where you could catch almost any disease known to man from the toilet seats.

So back to the book I’m now reading. Mem Fox suggests there are three elements to reading: recognizing the printed letters and the words they form, having language skills to understand the meaning of the words, and having the knowledge to make sense of the ideas the words suggest. Who would have ever thought it was so complicated?

She makes the point that reading to young children should not be equated with teaching. But rather it should be a time to laugh with them, be silly, and have fun. I certainly don’t remember doing any of that with my parents. I read to my children, but was I ever silly? I imagine not.

But somehow my children are serious readers. They might also have trouble being silly with my (some day) grandchildren.

I wish I had read this book along with Dr. Spock and Barry White and the other authors of parenting books. It puts an entirely new spin on something that has been around as long as man has recorded his thoughts.

I hope I will be able to convey these ideas to the mothers at the shelter. I hope I can read a book to them and demonstrate being just a little silly. It gives me new ideas for how to do a better job as I volunteer to read to their children.


Blogger Steve said...

When you read a children's book to your kids, didn't you ever change your voice just a little to match the voices of the characters -- or something like that? I think THAT's kind of silly, and probably the experience the author recommends. You know?

I hope your search for shoes goes better than mine! Why is it so HARD??

10:26 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Yeah, I'm sure I bordered on silly, but that sort of thing is usually pushing my limits. Maybe if I had a glass or two of wine first...

I do feel I'm much more in control reading to kids than I am in finding a pair of new shoes. Arghhh!

10:33 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Mem Fox has written some marvelous children's stories! Perhaps reading to your shelter children will give you another chance to be silly and creative when reading aloud. Have fun!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- My goal is to master the fine art of being silly by the time I have grandchildren!

10:10 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Sounds like a great book, and that sense of silliness is such fun when reading to kids! I do admire your volunteering work so much, too :)

1:40 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

We all need a little silliness... It's never too late, right?

7:41 PM  

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