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Rethinking Education

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Reading for pleasure

BY Bill Hoatson

When you hear the phrase “pleasure reading,” the word “luxury” pops immediately to mind. Think about that for a second — Reading something just for the pure enjoyment of it is considered not the norm. There is apparently not enough time in the day to actually enjoy reading. There is way too much serious “work” reading to do to think about something so frivolous as “fun” reading.
What a weird view of a person’s singlemost important academic skill. It is also a counterproductive view if you want to actually strengthen and grow that skill.
What is even weirder is that this view of enjoying what you read taking a back seat to “work” reading is pervasive not just in your average citizen, but in schools. Just look at the curriculum. You have lots of English of various kinds, but very little of “reading something fun or interesting just for the heck of it.” This is especially true as children get older. It is no wonder that so many children exhibit poor reading skills. Schools have become so obsessed with test scores they have gone straight to “you have got to learn how to read well because it is good for you, so we are going to force you to read well” and completely jumped over the child’s most important learning tool, which is simply the desire, the wish, the want to read.
Why push something on a child, which will meet resistance, when, if you teach it right, the child will be asking, often begging for it?
Simply put, from a teacher’s point of view, if a child really wants to learn something, and is in fact pleading with you to teach it to them, your job as a teacher is
90 percent done. Now you just give them what they are asking for, in measured doses so the brain can absorb what is being handed to it, and the brain will take in and absorb the information at the fastest rate of which it is capable of, because that is what brains do naturally when there is no resistance to what is being taught.
What is exhausting to a teacher is not the teaching, but overcoming the resistance to what is being taught.
Teaching to a child who wants to be taught and is learning what he is doing is not work, but exhilarating. The thrill that comes from helping a child learn is almost unmatched in any other profession and is the very reason why teachers become teachers in the first place. On the flip side, trying to teach very resistant, or even defiant, children is like trying to plow a field in quicksand — it is frustrating, draining and exhausting. The atmosphere in the classroom will include every negative emotion that can be named, including anger, disrespect, disobedience, boredom — Whatever.
The chasm between “I want to read this book, could you help me please?” and “I hate reading, school and am not very choked up about my teacher, either” is miles wide and schools are losing lots and lots of children stuck on the wrong side of that divide.
Pleasure reading should not be a luxury; it should be embedded in the school curriculum from Day One, and there should be lots and lots of it, including group reading out loud so children get the pace and feel of smooth reading and reading with inflection. If you want a real show of reading potential, put acting and hamming it up in there too, by reading from plays, TV or movie scripts.
If a child has the desire to learn and then experiences joy while doing so, the brain will function at its most efficient. If children enjoy the act of reading, their reading skills will automatically rise to meet every occasion, including that chemistry textbook, which is waiting for them on down the line. Who knows? They might actually enjoy that, too.
Contact Bill Hoatson at billhoatson@yahoo.com or visit his
website at www.
childachievement.com.