Learning to Read & Reading to Learn
Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles
by Barbara Smith
You help a child Learn to Read so that thereafter the child may Read to Learn. What does this involve? It is much more than just teaching a child to read. We have used five different ways to teach our five reading children how to read over 17 or 18 years. Different children will learn how to read in different ways. Some children will not learn how to read until they are 9, 10 or 11; others will learn while watching you teach an older child or sometimes even before the older child and sometimes without any help from you.
We as parents must not stress out about this. It takes longer for some children’s cognitive development of their brain to reach the stage where they can read, yet for others this happens early. Before this aspect of brain development is complete, the child can learn lots of facts but will have trouble stringing the facts togeth-er. So this “late develping” child can learn the sounds of the alphabet and blending but have trouble sounding out the word. By the time this child is at the end of a sentence s/he has forgotten the beginning of the sentence. But once the brain’s cognitive development has reached the stage which makes the decoding process of reading easy, the child will begin to read a lot, and, are you ready for it, will be reading at his/her own age/in-terest level, rather than at the beginning levels.
So take heart you parents of late developers. Once it connects for them, they will very soon catch up and possibly exceed their peers. We don’t talk about fast and slow learners now, but early and late developers. They all have their unique learning styles; some learn to read at 3 or 4 and forever after have their head in a book. Others in the meantime are learning all sorts of other interesting life skills which are broadening their minds in readiness for when they begin reading. So relax, just work on teaching reading a little each day, 5-15 minutes a day, until they take off in their reading. But remember to read to these children for at least two hours a day until they are reading on their own, and continue reading to them after that for the vocabulary development, family closeness and other benefits I’ll mention later.
But this is just the beginning of teaching reading.
Once a child has “learned to read” it is ready to “read to learn”. It is also time to teach writing and researching skills. Most children will need to learn how to write reports, essays, letters, assignments and research projects. Teaching a child to read, write and research is the most intensive time in educating our children. Once this has been achieved, children are able to work more and more on their own until they are educating themselves. This also happens at different times for different children. Some children are always motivat-ed, others become motivated once they know what they want to do. Others need creative and patient parents who can come up with different triggers to get them going. For some it is getting out into the work force for a couple of hours a day or for one day a week and finding that they need to get more educated, or they will be working at that type of job the rest of their lives. Others are motivated by the reading they are doing.
This was the case for our son Zach, now 19. When he was 14/15 he worked for an engineer, who is a jack of all trades, all day every Tuesday. He learned that he did not want to be an engineer, mechanic, plumber, electrician or painter. He seemed to be no good with the pen, so we wondered where to from here. We kept getting him to do reports, etc., but it was a struggle. During this time when he was 15, Craig asked him to write a report on his holiday. It was full of “and thens”, and incredibly boring to read. Later in that same week he came out in the morning and informed us that he was going to write a book. We despaired thinking of all the “and thens” that would fill the book. Well, he surprised us completely. The first chapter had no “and thens” at all. His first few chapters were the spitting image of Alistair McLean, the author he really loved to read. He ended up going to the library and getting books out on Amazon basin flora and fauna, various South American countries’ military and amunition capabilities, topographical maps, etc., as this was his book’s setting. He learned heaps doing this and came up with some really interesting plots.
Once your children become more independent in their reading and researching, you will not be able to personally review or become familiar with the content of all they read. Therefore during this “reading to learn” stage (which actually lasts all the rest of their lives) it is important to help your children come to understand and recognise the worldview of the authors of the books they are reading and how this colours their writings. This is why you continue to read to them after they can read for themselves: it gives your family endless opportunities to discuss the ideas, concepts and worldviews expressed by the authors you are reading. You want your children to be discerning readers, who will know when to put a book down and not continue with it, who will know when they are being fed a line of unChristian propaganda, who will be able to resist a high-powered sales pitch, who will be able to tell if even a Christian writer’s theology is either wonky or orthodox.
For example, in an earlier article, I mentioned that we are looking at buying New Zealand author Elsie Locke’s books because she had been highly recommended to us. Well, she has two or three good books, but the rest are not as good. In the 9 April 2001 Manawatu Evening Standard, this article appeared:
Special Tribute to Campaigner
She was a tiny woman physically, but her qualities and stature were enormous. Family and friends yesterday paid tribute to Elsie Loche, a peace campaigner, enviromentalist, novelist, historian, community worker, and “national treasure”, who died at her Christchurch home at the weekend. She was 88. Mrs Loche’s huge list of community efforts include helping to found the group that became the Family Planning Association, starting the nuclear disarmament campaign in the 1960s, writing more than 20 books for children and adults, advocating for environmental protection, and forming and running the Avon Loop Planning Association, which limited development around Christchurch’s Oxford Terrace. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from Canterbury University.
This tribute tells you a lot about Elsie Loche’s world view which may or may not agree with your own.
To help understand world views, there are several books on the market now. Understanding the Times by David A. Noebel of Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs is excellent. Our daughter Genevieve has studied the unabridged book and also been to Summit Ministries in the States for two weeks. She highly recommends this book and Summit Ministries. Diana Waring recommends the abridged edition of this book. The abridged edition is available from Christian Education Services and Answers in Genesis for $55.00. AIG say in their catalogue “Church leader Dr D James Kennedy believes that this massive book could be more valuable to young people than their university education. Looks at the inconsistencies of humanism, in the New Age movement, Marxism/Leninism and other world views, and shows the truthfulness of the biblical Christian world view. Helps students recognize bias in teachers, the media, and friends and helps adult Christians counteract false thinking in others. 402 pages.”
Another great book is Let us Highly Resolve by David Quine. Diana Waring said of this book, “[It] deals with one of the most important issues facing us as Christian parents today – raising our children in a Biblical world view. That is the core, the very foundation, of who we are and why we do what we do, especially as it concerns our parenting. David and Shirley have issued a clarion call to us all, the call to carefully, thoughtfully, and Biblically prepare our children to be leaders in the 21st century. I encourage you to read this book prayerfully. It may be the most important book you ever read!” Let Us Highly Resolve is available from Christian Education Services, 55 Richards Ave, Forrest Hill, North Shore City, New Zealand, Ph/fax (09) 410-3933, email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Carol (of CES) hopes to get other books on Worldviews, so ask her about them next time you are in touch with her.
From Keystone Magazine
May 2001, Vol. VII No. 3
Editor: Craig Smith
PO Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389