The New York Times recently reported here that despite all of the effort, reading scores have stayed stagnant. In other words, we’re not better readers at any level, K-12. It shouldn’t be that surprising, as the teachers we are graduating from our universities don’t actually know how to teach those children how to read.
I don’t claim to know how to teach young children how to read. I wish I knew, because reading the above mentioned article makes me scared for my own young kids. I know I was lucky; because I was going to be going to French immersion school (and thus not see English until the third grade), my parents sent me and my brother to a pre-school whose sole purpose was to teach four-year-olds (yes, that’s right) how to read. And learn to read we did. I wish I could find her, because I would sit with her and just ask her, how? How can I teach my kids to read?
The one thing I do know how to do is teach my kids how to love reading. Heck, I can teach anyone how to love reading. How do I do that? I make sure that a student, no matter what the age, can access the text and understand the “good” that is there. Is it about beautiful language? Great setting? Interesting and engaging story? Whatever it is, once students start enjoying what the are reading, they can then be drawn into analyzing the text. Why is it so engaging? How has the author used language? Why is the setting so important? Etc, etc, etc.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love reading. Unfortunately, much of my graduate education was taught by professors who didn’t. Or at least taught the books we were reading like they didn’t. Here is everything that is wrong with the book in question. Racist. Sexist. Classist. Imperialist. Etc, etc, etc. These same professors are teaching the future English teachers. If I, a student who was already invested and passionate about books, was screaming inside, why are we learning about these books if they’re so bad?, what is a middle-school student going to think?
And so we have a generation (or more) of teachers who are not preparing students for university. Other, bigger, online tutoring sites are partnering with school boards (pdf) to ensure that students are college-ready. Students have been coming up to me and complaining about how much they are expected to read once they get to university. Reading has rarely (if ever) been a joy for them, only a chore. This, of course, is not just the fault of the teachers; curriculum design plays a huge role in what teachers can teach. But from the bottom up, kids are obviously not prepared for college. And it is all at once depressing and terrifying to me. But it’s also presenting itself as an opportunity. Obviously, there is a need for the services I am providing. I just need for them to find me. (www.collegereadywriting.com)