After thirty years of teaching, if someone pinned me down and asked, “Okay, Jennie, what is the most important thing you teach, and what makes the biggest difference?”, I would know the answer, hands-down. Really. It is literacy and reading to children. It’s the tool that truly ‘does it all’.
When I read to children I am opening the world to them. First, it is always exciting to hear a story! Whatever I’m reading to them, I find something in the book to stop and talk about. If it is a rhyming book, we make up our own rhymes. If there is a different or new vocabulary word, we look it up in our classroom dictionary. If something has happened in the story, I ask ‘why’ questions. Literature naturally transitions from picture books to chapter books when children understand that they make the pictures in their head. That shift is a springboard to reading readiness. A book is more than a story; it is an open opportunity to learn. The book itself is just a cover and printed words. How those words are read to a child is the magic ingredient to make children think. And, thinking means learning. That’s all on top of the basic, hardfast statistic: the more words a child knows, the better s/he will do in school, in all subject areas.
I am committed to children and learning, and I know that reading is the number one key. I will travel to West Virginia next week to share literacy and reading. West Virginia has one of the lowest reading proficiencies in the country, with 73% of fourth graders reading below grade level. My school, Groton Community School in Groton, Massachusetts, has spearheaded a major book drive for Read Aloud West Virginia, an organization that champions reading aloud to children. We have collected over 500 top notch books to bring to schools and children, from best sellers to classics to picture books and chapter reading books. I’m spreading the benefits of reading!
I’ll be away from posting on my blog for a week, so stay tuned. So much to share!