Wednesday, May 2, 2012

National Year of Reading blast off

I am a bit behind the times.  Especially considering that the Aussie National Year of Reading 2012 launched in Febrary and it is now May.  I have lots of catching up to do!

If you are wondering why Australia is devoting a year to promoting reading, click here to see a factsheet.  I work in a secondary school with a population of almost 1500 students.  At least half of our students can not read independently at the expected grade level.  Even in the thick of it, the above fact sheet surprised me.  I work in a good school with excellent teachers and typical resources.  I am not going to point fingers and neither should anyone else.  I am simply saying, literacy skills are vital for participation in our constantly changing society. 

I want to start my foray into NYR12 celebrations with a definition of reading.  I think that there are a few misconceptions out there and it is important that we fix those before we try to move on. defines "read"  or "reading" as:

to look carefully so as to understand the meaning of (something written or printed etc) e.g. to read a book. a leading reading education website and resource for teachers and parents states:

Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation. Learn how readers integrate these facets to make meaning from print.

When a child reads the words on the page aloud to us, we think; "yeah, that kid can read, that's good.  He's set.  The other stuff doesn't matter so much, as long as the kid can read."  The problem is, that children as young as three years old can "role play" the act of reading.  This is expecially true if they have a favourite book that has been read over and over again to them.  True reading is engaging with a text.  This kind of reading means that you connect the words on the page to the world around you.  The experience of yourself and the narrator/ storyteller/ character etc become intertwined.  You compare your life to the lives of others.  You learn a new skill by reading the directions and following the steps.  You use the information to take a decision.  You use the marks on the page to do something real.  That is when reading is reading. 

The only way role play reading becomes real reading is when reading is practiced.  Just like walking, we see others do it, we watch, we try it ourselves and we start to see how easy it is.  We keep doing it, everyday.  We realise that this great new skill can take us places.  We do it some more.  We let it take us further and further.  The skill becomes a habit and then we begin to do it without thinking.  Successful people read everyday.  They don't just read the words on the page, but they read for real. 

The National Year of Reading 2012 is about making reading real for everyone, everywhere.  Reading is a joy that I often take for granted.  This year.. or what is left of it, I will share my experiences with you. 

A very big part of my job is reading and teaching children and teenagers to read.  It is tough.  But it is also the most rewarding part of my job. 

You don't have to be a teacher or student to participate in NYR12.  Stay tuned for the rockin' events that are happening all over Australia and online. 

:) Happy Reading


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