Is Reading and Writing Critical to Learning Anymore?February 17th, 2009
I just started reading the book How to Read a Book. It was written in 1940 about reading. One of the very interesting comments it makes is “there is some feeling nowadays that reading is not as necessary as it once was.” This statement was made in 1940! How many of us think that is the current situation? After all, we have video, ipods, computers, and televisions that have taken over many of the functions of books, newspapers, and journals. What often happens then is that people don’t have to actually ‘make up their minds’ about anything, instead they can just take the opinions of others without having to actually think.
This is one of the reasons reading is so critical, so that we teach everyone to think for themselves. Remember, reading is an actual activity. You can’t be passive when you read. You need to actually put out some effort and receive the information the writer is giving. Reading becomes almost like playing catch with a ball. The writer throws the ball and the reader catches it.
Your success in catching the ball, reading, is then determined by how much you receive, understand, and utilize the information you have read. Reading is so much more than just word calling. Reading is the active understanding, contemplation, and utilization of the written word where you gain a greater understanding than you had before you started to read.
There are several goals of reading: to gain information, to have increased understanding, and to be entertained. Reading for entertainment is the least demanding kind of reading and requires the least amount of effort. This is why we start our children off with reading stories for entertainment. This helps to provide both ease and love of reading.
Once the process of reading is relatively easy, we add reading for information in the way of history, geography, and science. With this in mind, anytime your children read for pleasure, whether it is comic books, short stories, or novels, take the time to rejoice that they will have an easier time when it comes to reading for information. Pleasure reading is just that, pleasure reading. So, it is fine to read a book that is written at an easier grade level than their textbooks.
Our goal here is to create readers. As we create readers we can start to teach them how to process, retain, and comprehend the written word. It is easiest to do this starting with simple note-taking from the short stories or books they have read. Teach the process with material that is easy and fun. Once children are familiar with how to take notes and write summaries it is easy to move on to the goal of reading for information, understanding, utilization, and enlightenment with their text book reading.
There are painless ways to do this. Note taking and writing projects don’t have to be hard. Using specially designed graphic organizers will make the process quick and pain free!
We can’t keep our head in the sand, just ‘playing back’ someone elses opinions. Our children deserve better than that. Our nation deserves better than that. We can teach them how to read for meaning and how to utilize what they have read.
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Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET