Reading instruction in the classroom is a key concern for all teachers and there are many ways to go about it. However, is our determination to achieve excellence in reading skills in our children killing their love and enjoyment of a good book?
In my work with parents, I am frequently asked the best ways to encourage and motivate reluctant readers to be engaged with books. Parents report that their children return home from school with no inclination to pick up a book and read.
Any avid reader will gladly talk about the joy of curling up with a good book to read away the hours on a cold, rainy afternoon. Reading a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We need to share these experiences with our children and adolescents in order to assist them in developing into strong and capable readers.
How widespread is this concern about the destruction of reading enjoyment?
As I have written previously, the use of boring, mass-produced home reading texts in children’s early years at school can be seen as the beginning of this negative cycle.
As children progress through their schooling life, there are many other instances of learning reading skills that don’t help to celebrate or foster reading development. As NAPLAN tells us, getting the reading skills required simply to access these assessments isn’t always an enjoyable experience for students. Frequently, teachers feel the pressure to give their students “just enough” in terms of reading strategies to be able to access the test, which leaves little time to focus on reading for pleasure.
Kelly Gallagher, a high school teacher from the United States, outlines the term “Readicide” in his book by the same name. He says it’s:
the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.
It is clear that the destruction of reading for pleasure is not contained to US schools. When introducing my first-year pre-service teachers to the amazing collection of literature by Australian author Shaun Tan, audible gasps of displeasure are frequently found.
The Lost Thing is a multilayered visual text recommended by the NSW Board of Studies for students in years seven through to ten. Students recount their experiences of weeks spent analysing the key themes, ideas, imagery and concepts within the pages of this text.
The Lost Thing is an excellent example that illustrates all of these concepts; however, students comment that the length of time studying and analysing different components discourages them from looking at it or anything similar again.
Recent research also indicates that many pre-service teachers are inclined to follow the traditional literacy practices that they have experienced in their own education, which can often have negative connotations for their future students.