I recently volunteered to be a primary (elementary) school "Reading Buddy." I get to go into a school once a week and have my Reading Buddy read to me. And chat about books, words, and life in general. And sometimes I get to read to my buddy, too. I can't wait to get all the paper work and security checks finalized.
In the meantime, I attended a training session at the school I'm going to be working with so I could learn their system and expectations. As a former teacher, I found the reading plan well-structured and accountable. As a writer and lover of books, especially children's books, my heart ached.
Basically, books are scored on levels 1-12. The more words, the more complex the words, the more dialogue used, and the more complicated the story, the higher the rating. Kids' reading levels are assessed, and they're only supposed to read books at the level they're at. Once a child reaches above 90% fluency on a level, they can be moved up one level. At the training session, we worked on introducing books to kids, assessing what areas of a book might be difficult, and how best to prepare kids for reading a new book.
What was my problem with all of this? Well, the books were written specifically for this system. We read one non-fiction picture book about how to build a house. Another about a wedding. Some of them were okay, some weren't, but none of them made me eager to turn the pages. Where was Mo Willems? Or Maurice Sendak? Or Julia Donaldson?
I get how the system is about encouraging children's reading confidence, gradually building up their ability. But I worry that it takes all the fun out of reading. After all, what's the point to reading if you're not going to read about dinosaurs? Or monsters? Or a pigeon stealing a bus?
But maybe I'm a reading snob. I don't remember learning how to read. I don't remember ever struggling with it. I didn't have to learn English as an additional language. And I've never had the honor of helping a child learn to read. So maybe there needs to be a system in place to assure everyone learns, especially kids who struggle or don't have supportive families. But I'm hoping my buddy won't tell if I bend the rules every now and then and bring in contraband books.
Is it bad that I haven't even started and I'm already planning on subverting the system?
Do you remember learning to read? How have you (or would you) teach reading?*
*Several months ago, one of my blogging friends wrote an AMAZING post on how to read with children. I remember being inspired by it. But I can't find it in my Google Reader. If you know what I'm talking about, please share the link so I can post it! Thanks.