by Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed., radteach.com and Terry Heick
Using your child’s interests, strengths, and talents you can connect them to reading they enjoy as they simultaneously build their reading skills. Their increased reading skill will result in more satisfying reading experiences. In short, as literacy levels increase, so does the pleasure of reading.
But this can go the other way as well; celebrating reading and making progress visible can also improve ability, perseverance, and curiosity. If we can think of from multiple perspectives–using joy to promote literacy, or using literacy to create joy–we can see that it can go both ways. This can be thought of as the Reading-Pleasure Cycle.
Using the reading/pleasure cycle intentionally, a lifelong love of literacy can be developed.
Note that literacy is often thought of in terms of early elementary skill-building–phonetics to blends, blends to words, words to sight words, sight words to phrases, and phrases to early literacy and comprehension. A significant part of literacy is the tendency to read as a matter of behavior and habit. In fact, this layer of literacy may be the most important–which shifts the burden of literacy from an elementary school goal to an opportunity for teachers and students in middle and high school as well.
How do we promote a love of reading?
How do we get students to see themselves as readers?
How can help students see reading as something wonderfully selfish and indulgent? Something joyful?
These are all questions that collectively outline the reading/pleasure cycle.
Learning to Read
Learning to read can be intimidating for students. As a teacher, care must be given to develop students in terms of decoding, comprehension, and joy. Thus, take care to avoid starting the process of boosting their love of reading with the simplistic–and adult-centered–goal of improving his reading abilities through “levels,” grades, and pure skill. These improvements will be a significant side benefits, but should not primary goals.
Also, avoid any temptation to take credit for their success when reading improves. Learning to read is about teaching and learning, but over the course of lifetime, it is more personal. Understanding that–and keeping reading from seeming like an entirely academic exercise–starts now.
Literacy improvement will be a result of persistence, practice, and interest, so they should have the benefit of taking ownership–for successes now, and potential in the future. As a literacy leader, the process starts with increasing your conscious awareness of the experiences and activities that motivate the student’s interest and enjoyment. That will be your “take off point” to draw students into wanting to read.
The accompanying reading activities, use of the daily newspaper, recorded books, and reading celebrations will then become the tools that influence the student’s positive connections to reading.
Acknowledging Effort & Celebrating Literacy Success
Some children are motivated by seeing visible results of their increased reading, such as number of pages read each day and then adding up weekly or even monthly sums to very satisfying large numbers of pages. However, progress does not always have to be documented with numbers. If you go back to a book a student had difficulty reading a few months earlier that they now can read aloud and with expression, you can both share the pleasure of their accomplishment. Joy is a powerful emotion, and is worth taking time to celebrate if the goal is joy in reading.
Some children are comfortable with their tape-recording their reading so they can hear it again after they have mastered the oral reading of the book. Consider letting students collaborate with you on activities like these–including the appropriate celebrations for achieving significant reading goals, such as certificates, prizes, points, in-class privileges, etc. At home they may be able to choose a restaurant for a celebratory dinner, or being allowed to choose the next family game on game night or the next video the family will watch together.
As your student’s learning partner, you’ll be their guide to the wonderful worlds they can reach through books traveling over the rainbow and deep into the center of the earth. Your guidance will light the way and the books they enjoy when young will ignite their joy as lifelong readers.
Some other ideas to celebrate literacy?
1. Casually mention literacy achievements in conversations
2. Honor struggles and effort as much as “success” (without patronizing)
3. Start a system where colleagues (i.e., other teachers, administrators, etc.) pull students aside in the halls, etc., and thank them for their reading
4. Create innovative metrics for literacy (basic metrics would be words per minute, books per month, etc., “innovative metrics” might be diversity of genres, certain ratios of fiction and non-fiction, curating book collections, or developing one’s own personal challenges for reading
Celebrating Literacy With The Reading/Pleasure Cycle; adapted image attribution flickr user susanfernandez