August 22, 2015 at 7:17 pm #1241
Early literacy should be about the joy of books, not fear of failure.
Literacy in children is a topic close to my heart, because I have three very different children and their journeys to literacy have been (and will be) very different too. When I read the article by Irwin, Moore, Tornatore, and Fowler, Expanding on Early Literacy: Promoting Emerging Language and Literacy during Storytime, my parental hackles went up. It was this sentence in particular: “Unfortunately, many children are already behind when they enter kindergarten” (from Expanding on Early Literacy: Promoting Emerging Language and Literacy during Storytime).
I am an ardent supporter of play-based learning. I think early literacy should be about instilling a love of reading, not about worrying whether your child will be able to tick all the literacy boxes when they go to kindy. As a parent with one child who took to reading like a duck to water, and another who has struggled with the process, I’ve had to actively let go of a lot of my worries around her “delays”. Alarmism about children falling behind gains traction purely because there is little room for flexibility in standard educational models. It isn’t a lifelong sentence, if the child is given the room to catch up. If the child isn’t made to feel like a failure, and receives assistance for any learning disabilities that may have held them back, then there is no reason why they can’t become fluent readers. I’ve seen families of children who were slightly behind told the school has serious concerns about their child’s academic progress… in grade 2.
Children who feel pressured about something they don’t feel good at begin to dislike the activity (it happens in Mathematics as well as reading). I’ve seen children exit the state school system feeling like failures because they couldn’t keep up with the other kids. It takes a long time for them to regain their confidence in themselves, but if they are given the space and the flexibility, it happens. Later readers can catch up to earlier readers.
The problem is less about children’s early literacy skills and more about the pressure of an unrealistic education system. Just like kindergarten and prep teachers are trying to fight to retain play-based programs, so should Storytime remain first and foremost about promoting a love of reading, without using scare tactics to justify the value of such programs. When children associate books with happiness they will be motivated to learn to read. It may require patience and flexibility, finding different ways to engage different readers, and a commitment to allow the child the time they need to develop. Scaring parents undermines them, and reduces their enjoyment of these activities.
My slow reader was given the space, without the pressure to perform. While she compared herself to her sister and her peers she was constantly reassured it would come, we just had to read more. Her verbal expression was sophisticated and her vocabulary better than most her age. She just couldn’t read. At the end of term one this year it all seemed to click into place. She was 7 and a half, and now she is catching up. The confidence is there, reading is less of a chore and more fun. She feels empowered. Literacy should be about empowerment. Children should be given the support and the time to develop these skills, without “the sky is falling” rhetoric from educators. Such pressure disempowers parents and children, and will not improve literacy.
August 22, 2015 at 11:15 pm #1248Peldon PParticipant
Hi Stacey, you have made a very strong point of argument, I agree with you, children should be encouraged to read not forced. It’s in the human nature to dislike anything that’s forced upon us and children are no different.
By the way did you read Kate’s latest email? She said to use the contextual hyperlinks (which you did) in your posts and not to list the references like we normally do.
August 23, 2015 at 9:40 am #1253Deborah FullerParticipant
A very well argued position Stacey, which agree with. I am not a mother myself but am married to a teacher. I feel that too much pressure is put on children to preform academically and achieve milestones at certain points. Children, like adults are all different and all have different talents, which need to be nurtured. I feel if a children is encouraged to read for the love of reading rather than to achieve milestones, they will develop at their own pace without worrying their parents unnecessarily or reducing the child’s self-confidence. I feel that as librarians we should be promoting the love of reading both to children and adults.
August 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm #1261Paola BerettaParticipant
Hi Stacey, your article is spot on. I enjoyed your personal experiences taking center stage as you constructed your arguments. I don’t have contemporary experience in kids going to school, but reflecting back on my own journey I was encouraged to read for the joy of it. And that has stayed with me ever since. Thanks for an excellent article!
- This reply was modified 8 years, 6 months ago by Paola Beretta.
August 23, 2015 at 3:58 pm #1273
Thanks all :D.
Peldon yes I did, I explained to Clare my reasons for doing it that way, awaiting on a response!
August 25, 2015 at 9:08 pm #1389Shannon FranzwayParticipant
Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! Your statement, “Literacy should be about empowerment,” really rings true for me. Great article!
August 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm #1422Robynne Kilborne BlakeParticipant
Hi Stacey, your forceful argument hit a nerve with me. Of 3 boys I have one son who was definitely not a reader – he loved me reading to him and loved talking about the books we read, but reading alone just didn’t come naturally to him. Now he’s at uni doing primary teaching and has to write about his own learning experiences – when he asked me to read his assignment on reading it made me cry. He loves to read but had struggled with it and is only just now finding his way, aged 19. It’s never too late! Just keeping the reading environment positive as a parent is the most important thing. There’s enough pressure on our kids to “perform” in every aspect of what they do these days. Let’s keep reading fun. Thanks for your reflection, I loved it!
August 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm #1433
Robynne yay that your son never lost his love for books and reading! That’s fantastic :D. You obviously managed to keep the experience positive for him :). I’m wondering how my youngest will go, he has severely delayed speech and language BUT he adores books and orients them the right way so who knows? I anticipate many tears in my future ;).
September 11, 2015 at 3:06 pm #1799Kate McKelligetParticipant
Thank you for posting this. When I read this week’s readings, I read them uncritically. As a a young woman with no children, I have little experience in this area. After completing the readings, this topic became almost mathematical to me. I thought I learnt the formula for creating successful reading and literacy skills in all children! Well, your post was very eye opening and I’m grateful to have a mother’s perspective on these readings. I still learnt many other valuable things from these readings, though.
September 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm #1809
Kate I get a little bit ranty about things to do with kids. I don’t have a problem with the concept that storytime supports literacy… what I have a problem with is the way parental fears are played upon and magnified in order to justify a program. They don’t need to do that. There are other ways to talk about the way storytime supports literacy without promoting a doom and gloom, fear-based approach. There are also other ways libraries can support children’s literacy too (which I am finding out through further reading), including not being scary librarians hehe.
September 13, 2015 at 10:08 am #1891Steven WalkerParticipant
Hi, Your argument pont brings this issue directly to my heart and as my little sister was always segregated from the main class groups in High School and was placed in the Special Education unit for no reason, she had the capacity to do what all the other student could, but she had dislexyia, so i like your point about I like your approach when you stated ..”While she compared herself to her sister and her peers she was constantly reassured it would come” a co-morbid way for children to gain appropriate literacy skills is an excellent idea. I was just wondering whether in your argument whether you support this segregation of a normal child into a lower level class when really all they needed was a little bit more attention, or teachers aide assistance?
September 13, 2015 at 4:33 pm #1943Will WoodParticipant
This is a really strong post Stacey!
I completely agree with your points about the unnecessary pressure that is placed on students. It is something that the education system needs to address as I feel it can have lasting effects on the psyche of students and their perception of their own abilities. When you mentioned “the sky is falling” rhetoric that comes from educators it reminded me immediately of the pressure I felt years ago during grade 12 when told that everything hinged on my OP and that my future would be dictated by how I did that year. I was completely overwhelmed by that concept even though I was a fairly high achiever. It caused me to doubt a lot of my assessment pieces which as you say does not really promote personal empowerment through learning. This is something that needs to be resolved in early education and put into practice throughout the entirety of schooling years. You don’t want children to feel like they are already on the back foot at the beginning of their learning journey.
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