Dana's simple hack of using humor to dial down reading anxiety for her son Wenxin could apply to any struggling reader.
|Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List|
Though this article is not terribly deep, it does strike a bit of gold that I've been giving much thought to recently.
There is a huge elephant in the literary reading classroom. No, it's not in the desks where the kids who are struggling with basic literacy are sitting. No, it's not in the front rows where the future English majors are sitting. It's right there in the middle of the classroom where those kids who can read, but either have never taken a strong enjoyment from reading or who once enjoyed hearing stories and even reading them by choice have somehow, frequently somewhere during middle school, begun to lose that essential element of literary reading called enjoyment.
The gap between the various levels of enjoyment derived from reading and their enjoyment of reading the kinds of assigned stories for which they have not previously developed much appreciation, combined with the requirement to analyze literary devices, to pass quizzes, and write essays may be a fairly obvious set of circumstances connecting the reading of "good" literature to a gradual, and if truth be told, often steep decline in literary reading.
Do we need to "dumb down" expectations for these kids? I don't think so. But, we really ought to keep in mind that if, in our good intentions, we inadvertently kill the enjoyment of just reading a good story about things they like to read about, we may actually be contributing to losing them as life long readers.
As I look back on my own experiences with learning to appreciate the value of quality I clearly recall that in every instance it was a transitionary process.
I loved comic books, Mad Magazine, and junky reads before those interests widened into an appreciation for great satire and great story telling.
I hated Romeo and Juliet as a pimply-faced teen age boy before I came to appreciate Shakespeare. Of course I read R&J as a freshman at a time when romantic love just wasn't anything I was interested in reading about. I never had a girlfriend; never had so much as a sister, a female cousin or even anything like a friendship with a girl that was as rich as my deep friendships with my guy friends. And, like it or not, I truly believe that Shakespeare's language was a barrier that I just wasn't all that interested in overcoming. The language combined with my lack of having discovered any other reason to read the play pretty much made for a miserable experience.
Ironically, because of my wobbly-at-best connection to my Jewish heritage, and a couple of years of maturity, I found myself much more receptive to the storyline in The Merchant of Venice.
It's a pattern that takes some transition time...
I also enjoyed junk food before I enjoyed fine food, and long before I appreciated healthy food.
I enjoyed the Three Stooges before I enjoyed dramatic films. In fact, I still remember the paradigm expanding impact of seeing The Graduate. Funny and thought-provoking! A perfect bridge.
I enjoyed having trendy clothes and cars before I found the shallowness in devoting huge chunks of money and concern to giving a darn about such superficial things.
So what's my point? Instilling, nurturing, and encouraging an ongoing LOVE of reading comes before, and perhaps in the long run is even more important than the development of an appreciation for literature. This may be particularly so if the appreciation for literary reading rests upon experiences that are deadly to pre-existing levels of reading enjoyment derived by many of our struggling and reluctant readers.
And, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that like myself, if my pre-existing enjoyment of reading, junky as it might have been is built upon, we just might find that, as was also true in my case, that we might wind up with far more life long readers than we currently do; and perhaps even far more English majors as well.