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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Process of Becoming a Reader

When I was three years old, tragedy struck my family. In a time when the standard family had a husband, wife, and two to three kids, the impossible happened to me: my parents were going through a divorce. Although the divorce was painful, it allowed me to read with both parents. It was the only commonality and consistency throughout all the change going on in my life. 

Ever since I was a few months old, I had to be read to every night in order to fall asleep. My mom was the one who originally started reading to me because she had always heard that starting it at a young age is very beneficial. When my parents got divorced, everything changed, as was expected. It was a hard adjustment, but I needed to keep my routine the same. I still asked to be read to every night before bed. Both my parents wanted to continue this tradition to keep some consistency in my life. It was not a very tedious task, but I am very grateful that they put forth the effort. 

I truly believe that having them read to me every night has allowed me to see reading and literacy in a positive light. As I got older, I still enjoyed books on my own. I could sit with a novel for hours on end; I would be able to finish a 400 page book within a few days. Building literacy skills is the basis for all other subjects in school, so enjoying it gave me an advantage in a lot of areas. 

Teachers and parents have a duty to read to their students and children every day and get them engrossed into the stories. Strong readers have a head start at doing well in other subjects, and all children should have the best chance at succeeding. I still cannot fathom how some high school students, especially in the inner cities, are still illiterate.  There are some students that come into kindergarten or even later grades that do not know what a letter is. To them, it is merely an arbitrary symbol or shape. There are also some students that do not realize that they are holding a book upside down. Even if children cannot read on their own, having their parents read to them increases their awareness of how to read. It does not matter what they are reading—it could be a menu or sign--we just need to engage parents and the community to help children increase literacy rates.

It is important for adults to view everyone as a reader and a writer. Every child comes with their own background knowledge and schema, which contributes to their reading and writing development. My goal is to help create an environment where these things are acknowledged. 

The process of becoming a reader and a writer is a social process. The children start off by communicating and interacting with adults and their peers. They interact with books, words, sounds, and written language in a social context. Later on, they begin to understand and process these ideas. This process moves from social to psychological.

I wanted to create several documents that parents, nannies, teacher, librarians, volunteers, etc., could use to help increase literacy rates. 

One product that I actually created was the scavenger hunt. It is attached to this post. This is an experience that can be done independently by proficient readers, or it could be done with a parent or volunteer. Giving the option to include parents creates a community of readers and helps to make the parents feel more invested. This activity could also be done individually or in a group, so it can become a social experience as well. It requires knowledge of the library, books, and letters. It uses the environment to promote literacy. 

The other product I created was a handout or poster that teaches the children and their parents how to find a “just-right” book to read without having to know their reading level or taking a test. It is about giving them tools to be successful readers. It also acknowledges the role of their schema and interests in the difficulty of a book. If there is a book about fishing and the child knows nothing about fishing, that book would have vocabulary that is much more difficult for them than a child who goes fishing every weekend.

At the end of the day, it takes a community to help build the literacy of a child, but it also starts at home. The more text a child is exposed to from an early age, the better off they will be as lifelong readers and learners.

*Feel free to use my documents for educational, non-commercial use*