The debate surrounding how to teach children to read is ongoing. What we tend to forget and ignore is how we learned to read ourselves.
I think it’s important to address what helped make us the readers we are today, or what problems we encountered. Perhaps we can recall what worked, and what didn’t, by remembering our own personal reading experience.
Here are some questions:
- How old were we when we learned to read?
- How were we taught to read in school?
- Did our teachers help us read?
- Did school provide a rich reading environment?
- When did we read fluently and comprehend meaning?
- What’s the first book we read?
- Was learning to read a pleasant experience?
- If we struggled to read, what did our school do to help?
- Did we learn with whole language, phonics? Both?
- Did we read before entering kindergarten?
- Did we do well on reading tests?
- Were we embarrassed because we couldn’t read well?
- Is reading still a struggle?
- Do we cherish reading novels? Fiction? Nonfiction?
My Own Story
You can skip this part if you want and analyze your own reading history. I enjoyed doing this and it made me think about how students learn to read today. I experienced some reading difficulties later in school.
- I was fascinated by reading at a young age. My mother read to me.
- I pretended to read picture books to my friend, even though I didn’t know the words. I wanted to read.
- I liked the magazine section of the A&P grocery store. When visiting my grandmother, she would purchase for me a Mickey Mouse comic book, or a Golden Book. Sometimes it was a little note pad to write on. It meant so much, though it was simple.
- I remember identifying interjections in comic books. I read a variety of silly comic books, but I also remember loving The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas in the Illustrated Classics. I found it here!
- I was lucky to get two magazine subscriptions which included Highlights for Children. I received American Girl when I was older.
- I learned to read formally in first or second grade. I had the same teacher for both grades. I learned with Dick and Jane. I know it’s the butt of jokes, but it worked for me.
- My third grade teacher taught us phonics. We had a small green chart and a sliding cardboard strip with consonants and vowels. We recited the sounds together everyday.
- We had a Monday pretest spelling list, workbook exercises, and the post-test on Friday. This was the spelling routine through 8th grade, and I am a decent speller.
- We didn’t write in journals, but every teacher gave us ample opportunities to write stories. I love to write. I love words. I do wish I’d taken some Latin instead of several years of French in high school.
- I loved Geography. I enjoyed reading about and looking at the pictures of people living in faraway lands, and how they lived.
- My world grew sweeter when I got my first library card. To this day I haunt libraries no matter where I go.
- I attended a country school, and I don’t remember an elementary library. But my third grade class was well stocked with books. I loved checking them out. My high school was newly built and had an excellent library.
- I liked most genres, but didn’t care for dog and horse stories. I don’t understand this because I love animals.
- I read all about Abe Lincoln when I was young and couldn’t wait to visit his birthplace on vacation. I was disappointed. The log cabin was in a building!
- The first novel I read completely on my own was from the Honey Bunch series. I graduated to The Bobbsey Twins. One summer I read every Nancy Drew book from the library! I didn’t just read series books, but I got hooked on them for a while.
- I once missed most of Christmas Eve because I was given The Wizard of Oz. I read the whole book in one sitting.
- In junior high and high school, my technical reading slowed, and I didn’t do well on standardized tests.
- I went to a reading remediation class for a while to try to improve my reading speed.
- I’ve never done well on standardized tests. I read slowly if I’m not interested in the material. It caused some hurdles in my schooling.
- I didn’t always like the books we had to read in English class in high school, but To Kill a Mockingbird and Les Misérables impacted me the most.
- I still love to read, but I read too many technical books about education. I need to read more fiction.
- I also still love picture books, children’s and middle school and young adult novels. Like many, I try to pen some of my own.
- I credit many people for helping me learn to read, including many teachers.
That’s my story. What’s yours? What reading points does your story make for children today?
I am sure I love to read today because it started out enjoyable. Although reading later was somewhat difficult, I continued to enjoy it.
One point that parents might take away from my experience is the age they place their child in kindergarten. I wish my parents would have waited for me to be older before placing me in school. I have a late birthday, was always the youngest in my class, and I think that’s why I sometimes struggled in school.
While I am against retention, I think Redshirting, waiting until a child is older, or, as old, as their peers, might be appropriate. Of course, it would depend on the child.
I could also have mild learning disabilities that were never diagnosed. While reading was fun, math was a different story. Still, I took all the tough classes in high school, I tried my best, and managed to do O.K. I have always loved to learn.
My grades were never great in high school, but in college I taught myself how to study. My grades soared!
If you’d like to share some ideas about how you learned to read, and what it might mean for children today, please feel free.
It would be especially nice to hear some positive stories about teachers who helped teach reading since it is Teacher Appreciation Week.
If you still can’t read well, don’t be embarrassed. Find help. It’s never too late to learn how to read, or, be better at it.