Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Sunday Salon: Reading is Important

The Sunday

What Caught My Fancy This Week

For one of my classes we were supposed to give a speech and then write an article on the same topic. I have written enough argumentative essays over the past 15 years to make me rather sick of it all. I am also going to spend my working life reading students argumentative essays. I am sure I will read more than my fair share of essays about the death penalty and assisted suicide. I really didn’t want to write one myself. So I chose to give my speech on the importance of reading to children. It was a sure winner since I was giving the speech to a bunch of future Swedish teachers. My professor was almost in tears she was so happy with my choice and the speech (even though I went over in time). Then I wrote a column on the same thing.

After I had handed in my first draft I ended up reading a really upsetting article in a teaching magazine. Apparently high school students have such a poor vocabulary that they can’t read regular text books in various subjects!!! I often complain that the academic texts I have to read use bigger words than necessary. That I hate. But to not know basic vocabulary??!!! That is just so incredibly wrong.

The article I read advocated that students in lower grades should be given an hour of free reading time per week. An hour? Per week??!! Allow me to be appalled at the paltry amount. Yes I know that I can spend an entire day reading, actually I could spend all day every day reading if I was allowed. And yes I know that reading is not everyone’s cup of tea, but come on! An hour a week?! They need more than that! Reading shouldn’t be a chore but it should definitely be encouraged. And quite frankly I don’t care what they read, as long as they read. Because I firmly believe that sooner or later they will realise that reading isn’t hard or scary but fun and a great way of finding out new things and they will read different things.

Reading is so incredibly important that we shouldn’t simply schedule in an hour a week. It should be something that happens every day and we need to talk about WHY it is important to read.

I’m going to get off my high horse now. But man did that make my blood boil. An hour a week indeed!


I’m reading quite a few books this week :D

Rapture in Death Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb. Still re-reading this. I haven’t read that much in it this week because I usually read this in bed at night and this week I’ve been up late watching the Olympics.


French Lieutenant's Woman The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. I’m almost done this book and I realise why I don’t remember it. I simply didn’t like it the first time. And I don’t like it now. I am still counting it for the  Flashback Challenge because I think it will be interesting to discuss why I don’t like it and how I look at it differently now, I still have my old notes.

the namesake The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. We have had absolutely atrocious weather here this week and I have had a mad week in school so I haven’t been out for my walks when I mainly listen to audiobooks so no listening to this this week. Makes me sad because I really like it. This will be my first book for the South Asian Author Challenge.


I only reviewed one book this week, but what a book!!!

The Souls fo Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. This was probably one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long time. I was surprised by how relevant it still was. So much of what Du Bois wrote can be applied to today’s world. The importance of education and the dangers of certain types of loans. I have put Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery because Du Bois heavily criticises his stand on education and suffrage and I wanted to know what Washington actually said. I do love it when one book causes me to read another. On a purely personal note I am also incredibly proud of this review. It felt really solid.  

Bookish News

An article from The Guardian about Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. It talks about many of the problems I had with the books, and about the movie of the first book which is out in the UK this month. They are actually showing the movies (extended cut apparently) on tv here this spring. I will probably watch them. Should be interesting.

Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North.clip_image001This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


SariJ said...

When my son started school in 1997 all students were expected to read at least 30 minutes a day outside of class. Parents had to sign journals stating what their children read. I found it appalling that schools could dictated what was done outside of the classroom, yet a part of me understands why this was done. Too often parents give little attention to reading. No wonder many students cannot understand text vocabulary. These are the students who have not been exposed to reading. It is sad really.

readerbuzz said...

It's a tricky thing, to find ways to have children read more without killing their love of reading. Every study says that children who read more read better. But children who are forced to read associate it with a punishment. Tricky.

Zee said...

I generally speaking dislike timed reading because you start to clockwatch. I also don't want to associate reading with something that you have to do. I do however feel that children should be required to read every day. As you say it is a difficult balance to strike. Ultimately I think it is a threat to democracy when we don't require our children to read. If they cannot read how can they become informed citizens?

I do think that we spend an awful lot of our time in our classrooms doing "stuff". If we spent less time on disciplinary issues we would have more time for important things such as reading, and then we wouldn't have to require parents to time their children at home. There is enough time during the school day that school work shouldn't have to spill in to the home life.

I also think that we need to look at what we do with the books that kids read in school. The frequent "use" for books in lower ages seems to be in order to write pre-scripted reviews. Is that really the best way for kids to learn from books?

There is no easy solution to this problem but I think we need to talk about it much much more.

Sorry soapbox issue here. :D

Teresa said...

The education magazine I work for is doing a whole issue on reading next month, so I've been thinking about this a lot lately. As Deb says, it's tricky. The best book I've read on the subject is The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. She requires all her students (6th grade) to read 40 books per year. Other than having to meet certain genre requirements (a certain amount of science fiction, poetry, nonfiction, etc.), students can read whatever they choose. Her thinking is that the best way to become a good reader is to read, read, read. She teaches students to carry books with them wherever they go, to pull out their books when they're done with classwork, to develop the habits of avid readers. It's an impressive effort that seems to be working.

Zee said...

Theresa thanks for that book. It sounds really interesting. I've put it on my tbr. The whole idea of having the books as fill ins is something that I love. I think that the atmosphere in the classroom will be better if students have something to do in the pauses that will be in today's classroom. Instead of disturbing each other while they wait for help or instructions they read. That sounds fantastic.

Amanda said...

I'm really lucky that our school highly encourages reading for the kids. In fact, each child has to sign a contract at the beginning of the year stating they will read at least 20 mins every single day of the school year. We make our boys do more than that - half an hour every day while I watch the evening news - but they end up doing much, much more on their own.

Ti said...

I work at a university and I have to tell you, many of the students revert to slang in daily conversation. They may have been taught proper vacab in high school but sometime along the way, many abandon it to be part of the in crowd. I'm shocked at the conversations I hear on campus.

My daughter and son are in K-6 and there is a heavy emphasis on reading and public speaking. My daughter embraces reading much more than my son but I hope the public speaking skills stick so that they can at least sound educated once college comes around.

Aarti said...

I think this is sad. I don't know why people don't think vocabulary is important! Language is filled with so much nuance and so much meaning, but only when the words within it are actually employed. I like to litter my conversation with fun words every once in a while and I think now it comes more naturally to me, but it's quite possible other people find me pretentious. Oh, well! Obviously, it's the few against the many for the vocabulary battle!

Pour of Tor said...

Hmm. I tend to agree that (even if there isn't enough time in the schedule for an hour of free reading a day) that a shorter time devoted to it daily (half an hour, say) would be better than an hour a week. The important thing is to make it a pleasurable, relaxing part of daily routine and practice.

But there is also a lot to be said (as other commenters have noted) for fostering reading by giving kids freedom and agency in what they read. I have often admired my family's strategy here: when I was a child they would give me a gift certificate for $50 or $100 to the local indie bookstore for birthdays or holidays. Then I could go with them and choose to spend that money however I wanted, but it would be on books, and on books that I would actually read. Of course, this did have the side-effect of instigating a lifelong obsession with book-buying. :) But I am now a professor of literature!