When I was an elementary teacher, I had to assess kids immediately so I could know where their reading skills were compared to where they should be. What I also informally assessed were their attitudes on reading and I came up with some common themes.
First though, let me clear some misconceptions to make sure we are on the same page. There is a line I draw between reading and decoding and this difference is important.
Decoding is when a child pronounces words properly from whatever they are reading. When I worked with kids though, I defined reading as decoding plus "knowing what the heck you are talking about." A simple example would be when a child reads a stop sign. A child who decodes that word (like my youngest son) has no idea why the sign is there or what to do. An older child though could decode the stop sign, know why it is there, and have a clear picture in his/her mind as to what is going on.
Now, let's get to why reading stinks.
|Picture was found after writing my Space Shuttle point. I couldn't resist.|
2. Reading stinks because there's no one to share it with. In a classroom, I didn't have this issue but at home, any parent could. If a child is forced to read at home while the adult watches TV, talks on the phone, or plays on the internet, it appears to the child that reading has taken a backseat in their life. To make matters worse, if a child doesn't have a nice quiet area to read and has to watch their siblings playing while they are working; their concentration would be so far gone, it would make reading nearly pointless.
3. Finally, reading stinks because the material is boring. When a child is forced to read material they don't like, it can turn them off from the process all together. While I will grant you sometimes kids have to read things in school they don't want to, I would hate to think we make children read so many boring things that they despise reading all together. That would be a shame.
Remember in the beginning of the post when saying that I informally assessed attitudes about reading? Here's why. In the beginning of every school year, my job (as I perceived it) was to get a child's attitude in the right direction concerning reading. It was more important than even the subject itself. Some kids had a negative attitude about reading or a complete lack of confidence. I had to get these things turned around as quickly as possible because if I didn't, teaching the subject would have been useless.
As adults, we choose what we want to read but when working with kids, we should be mindful of our choices. If, as adults, we pass on to our children "reading stinks" by our actions, our kids are much less likely to be good readers. It's really important to take an active role in reading because our children are always watching us. A parent can take an active role by reading themselves but they can also help by taking an interest in what their kids are reading.
I found this out recently when I was sitting on a couch reading a book. My oldest son walks up to me and says "I thought only mom read books." The reason my child said this is because I don't read a lot of books. I wasn't aware though he was observant of this. I explained to him I read books occasionally but I like newspapers and magazines more. Kids are much more observant than we think so it's important to give the best impressions possible.
The truth is reading really stinks for some kids but it doesn't have to. There are things we, as parents and educators, can do to help kids if we choose. Though reading is not a skill learned overnight, it is one that will last a lifetime.
This Wednesday, I will be back with my behavior blog. The title will be "Competing for Mama" and I think you'll find it pretty interesting. All my best to you and the ones you love.