As a teacher I have always thought that reading was important. It wasn’t until I taught first grade for the first time that I was truly aware of importance of a great beginning. I was as excited as my students with their progress. I loved watching them make the transition from forming letter sounds into words, reading sentences and finally picking up a book to read on their own.
In our school district we used a phonics based program for teaching reading. The program required parent involvement each evening with their child. The students read together with their classmates each day and some time reading with the teacher each day to check their progress. The students made almost a seamless transition in spelling their words. Some of the students struggled in learning to read. I’ve learned that there are different types of learners and to teach just one type of way doesn’t meet all their needs.
I had the opportunity to teach the same students several years later when they were in fifth grade. I realized at that point in time that the students who struggled in the first grade were still struggling in reading and their comprehension of what they were reading.
At the first grade level it didn’t seem as critical if a student wasn’t quite at the same level in their learning because in every classroom there is a wide variety in ability from the low to the high students. At the fifth grade level, however, the ability to comprehend what they read is a very critical skill. It affects every subject area that students study even their math skills. By the fifth grade the students need to be able to read story problems in math. If they cannot comprehend what they read to do their math work, they struggle not only in reading but math as well.
If I were teaching reading again back in the first grade and beyond I would change my teaching to a reading saturated curriculum. Fluent readers would be my goal for all my students. I wouldn’t focus on the other subjects but make reading the priority. For the student who struggled reading, the focus would be to use every method available to help them become fluent readers. The ability to comprehend what they read is critical to success in all subject areas and comes with fluency.
I was raised in a home where there was always an ample supply of books to read and someone was always reading. The example of the importance of reading was set on a daily basis. If you needed to know something you looked it up in a book. Granted, I grew up in a time before the internet was the place to look just about everything up but we learned that there was a whole world out there to be found in a book.
We live in a new world with technology at its center. It is hard to escape from its grip. I still love to pick out a book at a bookstore, library, or online and hold it in my hands, and read to escape into another world. I just finished reading the fourth book by James Herriot, the veterinarian. Due to the vivid descriptions by the author I was transported to the heather covered hills of England and into the old barns where he treated his patients. I’ve met the different characters in his stories and have made comparisons to our local characters in our small town.
Books are a treasure to behold. Whether it is a fiction or non-fiction, children’s book or textbook, they offer insight into another world if we will just read.