For the Love of
By Ann Lloyd
“Sit like a butterfly,” calls Mrs. Smith as each
child assumes their place on the carpet for reading. “Can everyone flap
their wings?” The children obediently begin raising and lowering their
knees from their Indian-style sitting positions. “Good, now lets begin.
Whose turn is it to read first today?”
A typical day in a
typical first grade classroom. In schools everywhere, teachers like Mrs.
Smith work diligently to help students develop a passion for reading.
They insist on segregated reading groups and utilize the latest
materials. Yet despite their good intentions, many are actually teaching
children to associate reading with embarrassment, humiliation and
Well-meaning but perhaps
not thinking, our schools consistently ask young students to perform in
front of an audience that is often less than kind. Yet few teachers
think to question the system. Instead they echo the familiar phrase:
“We’ve done it that way for years.” It’s effective, it’s proven, it's
research-based, it works. But does it work? Have we raised a nation of
children who love to read? Children who routinely choose a good book
over a television rerun?
Ironically, most of us
grew up with this method of reading instruction. Many remember the
overwhelming pressure to perform in front of our peers, the sense of
tunnel vision we endured to sound out an unknown word. Perhaps that’s
why we’ve chosen to help our kids learn at home.
As an unschooling parent
you have the rare and wonderful opportunity to do it differently. Your
child can learn in a safe and nurturing environment. Free from the
embarrassment and humiliation of a classroom, reading can be associated
with knowledge and pleasure. Unschooled children can easily be taught
that reading is power. The power to explore, to learn, to unlock the
secrets of the world. In short, with a little guidance, your child can
become a lifelong reader.
Creating a reading environment is not
difficult. It costs nothing and requires little time. In choosing to
homeschool, you have already taken the first step. You have eliminated
the classroom. Now let’s be sure we’ve eliminated the rest of the school
rigidity. For children to truly love reading, they must have positive
encounters with books in their everyday lives.
In our household, books
are everywhere. They line the shelves and clutter the floor. We have
books in our horse trailer, gym bags and beds. We step on them, rip
pages from them, and use them to balance the furniture. Though it may
sound chaotic or even disrespectful, I believe that books should be an
active part of a child’s life. I believe that books should be used.
So pack a picnic, grab
some books and head to the park. Take a book to the zoo to look up the
animals as you go. The options are endless. At home, try curling up in
bed with your child after dark, pull the covers over your heads and read
together with a flashlight. This was my son Jon’s favorite activity. Or
try one of my daughter Kathryn’s favorites. Find a great book with a
recipe in the back and spend the afternoon baking. Horrible Harry
and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline, for example, ends with a fun
recipe for green slime. If you’d prefer an edible treat, Old Black
Witch by Wendy and Harry Devlin, includes a delicious recipe for
Creating a reader’s nook
in your child’s room can also persuade young children to spend more time
reading. Set up a small bookshelf or basket, a lamp, and a comfortable
chair. Throw in a few stuffed animals, pillows and blankets and you have
a reader’s paradise.
Remember too that novels
are not the only form of reading material. If your child is reluctant to
pick up a traditional story or chapter book, don’t despair. Instead,
provide magazines, comic books, or picture encyclopedias. People read
for a variety of reasons. As adults it is not uncommon to hear someone
say, “I only read fiction,” or “I just love a good thriller.” Our
children are no different.
My son Garrett, for
example, has never voluntarily read fiction, but he ravenously consumes
nonfiction works. Each child is different. And the true glory of
home-based learning is that we can allow them to be.
So encourage your child
to read anywhere and everywhere. Work to make reading a comfortable part
of their everyday life, a part of their environment. While school
children across the globe are instructed to read aloud while seated at
desks with uncomfortable chairs, show your child that books can open the
door to information, entertainment and yes, even food.
Ann Lloyd is
the author of
“Just ‘Til I Finish This Chapter…” and
“Tips and Tricks for Homeschooling Survival.”
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