Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mem Fox

Mem Fox sounds like the name of a character in a book, but she's for real. An Australian, she is a noted author of many books for children and adults and a former professor of literacy education.

More information at Mem Fox.

Currently I am reading Reading Magic . The subtitle of Mrs. Fox's book is Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.

Now you know why I am reading it.

Of course we as parents want wonderful things for our children, the best education, the best opportunities, the best this and that. What we often don't focus on is that we want our children to be happy. And reading aloud fosters a well-rounded character and a person who can enter relationships in a healthy manner. This isn't the emphasis of Reading Magic, but it is included. Here is a quote from chapter one:

"Reading aloud to my daughter was a fabulous experience.

We bonded through all sorts of marvelous books.

We came to know and love each other better through a variety of stories we shared."

I'd read aloud with my child if that was the only reason that existed. In this scattered society, it is hard to connect with people. Many of the social ills in our world are rooted in a form of attachment disorder.

  • First, I want to have a strong relationship with my children.

  • Second, I want my children to experience a strong relationship so they have that as a base for relationships in the future.

  • Third, I want them to learn how to develop a strong relationship through practice.

Reading aloud is important for your mental health!

I know that sounds extreme, but one dad I know said it this way, "He (4-yr-old) can be a trial all day. He can drive me crazy. He can push all my buttons. But at night, when he snuggles under my arm and we read a half-dozen books, it is like the equilibrium settles on both of us. The day's trials are erased and only the love remains."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.

I wonder how many times that has been read by parents, by teachers, by babysitters, and by children. It is so simple and such a beautiful introduction to literature.

Bill Martin, Jr had a hard, hard time learning to read. He still wasn't proficient by the time he got to college. College!
However, his early influences weren't completely devoid of literary input. He said one teacher, Mrs. Davis, stoked his creativity by reading novels to his 5th grade class every day.
Mrs. Davis opened the world of books by "[tuning] his ears to literate language and to the voice of the text."

In college, he stumbled on poetry. How very unlikely for the son of a paperhanger with four brothers. He was born in Hiawatha, Kansas. I'd love to know what went on in that home when they were young. At least two brothers loved books. Bill wrote 300. Bernard illustrated the first ten. Robert Frost and Walt Whitman taught him to read. No, they weren't contemporaries, but in college their poetry unlocked the key to Bill's reading. He finally took the sounds of words in his ear and connected them to the words on the page. This enabled him to reverse the process. He took the words on the page and was able to produce the sounds of words.

He went on to get a doctorate in Early Childhood Education. Here is a concise list of things he did in his career that ultimately promoted literacy: Reading Rockets and a video interview.

My favorite quote from Bill Martin, Jr. :

"I don't write books, I talk them," Martin explains.

"I write to a melody."

Bill Martin is my second hero as a promoter of literacy. He understood books need to delight the child aurally as well as visually.

Look at his books in the library. Most of them show that they are loved with smudged pages and wrinkled edges.

I pray I will leave books behind that are so intriguing, they lure children into reading.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Men and a Book

Actually lots of books. There are two men I admire in the world who are very influential in connecting children with books. One is Jim Trelease and the other is Bill Martin. I was introduced to these men's work in my early thirties, after I had my BS in Elem Ed and after I had taught. Now I had my own children and I wanted to know more. Here is a more extensive look at Jim Trelease , his work and his career.

One of the things that struck me from Mr. Trelease is this bit of wisdom:

There is a connection between
want to read and how to read.
My very first principal looked over my first grade next-to-the-bottom reading group and told me these children would not learn to read that year. I was floored. He was giving up on me? on them? on us? before the first day of school? His next sentence freed me to be one of the best first grade teachers in the district. He said, "Your job this year is to convince these kids that reading is the most fun class of the day, that reading is exciting, and they will read. You don't have to mention that it won't be this year."

This wise principal and Jim Trelease know that no one learns to fish, unless they love fishing. No one learns to swim unless they love the water. No one learns to read unless what is in a book is seen as a treasure.

Reading aloud to children motivates them
to want to read themselves.

It's almost as elementary as climbing the mountain because it's there. A person has know the mountain exists. He must see the mountain in all its glory. He develops the need to be swallowed up in "mountainness." In other words, be at one with the mountain, fully experience it. So he begins the climb. (Disclaimer: this is an analogy. I am not a flower child or someone who worships nature instead of the Creator.)

Children who are read to latch on to reading. The research proves it. And in a less scientific proclamation, my family proves it. We are one generation after another of readers. Reading aloud sustained that gift.