Do you remember your school library? I do. It was a place of magic and discovery, where I was first introduced to a very scrappy redhead with stiff braids and extraordinary strength named Pippi, who could carry a horse while playing with her friends and who was curiously identified by her long stockings. It was where I let my imagination soar with wings like that of the Pegasus and Icarus while listening to the stories of Greek mythology read aloud to eager little ears while sitting cross legged on the carpet during circle time.
These memories are only taken from my first three or four years of elementary school, long before I began my own independent studies journey as part of a home education and itinerant ministry shared with my parents. Well, apparently we’ve come a long way since then. Here I have posted only a very small portion of a thought provoking article about the school library, literacy and the young reader of today’s generation of elementary school children. Please finish reading the entire article on the original website by following the links after the excerpt. Enjoy!
A perplexing fate awaits a reader in an elementary school. There is no place for this strange child in classroom, library or playground. Watching my daughter caught in this predicament I find myself troubled by the paradox of an institution charged with teaching children to read that seems unable to offer either welcome or nourishment to the ardent reader within its walls.
With the arrival of the child came the books. From the shelves of used bookshops, thrift stores, libraries and Oma’s house, from the Amazon and Indigo warehouses, out of wrapped packages at Christmas and birthdays the books arrived like an endless small town fair parade – floats, marchers, brass bands, clowns – some finer than others, in crowds bunched together or singly straggling, not well-marshalled, but hanging together somehow. Each met with narrowing, gleaming eyes – what will this one do? Mother Goose, the Grimms, Kipling, Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Edward Lear and the Ahlbergs. A perverse favourite known as “Josh and Jude” that put readers-aloud into hypnotic trance.
By the time the child started school she had taught herself to read. Joining the carnival, she kept company with her favourites as long and as often as she liked. She met Moomintroll and Mary Poppins, Dido Twite and Pippi Longstocking, Loki and Laura Ingalls, Borrowers and Bastables, Swallows and Amazons. Awake and dreaming she gazed on Asgard, Olympus, Canaan, and Camelot. She lived at Willoughby Chase, Villa Villekula, and Greene Knowe. She stopped reading only when the book was pried from her small hands.
The books from school came home in a Ziploc bag with a detailed letter explaining how her parents or caregiver should read with her at home every night for ten minutes. The first small ten-page book was called “Noise,” its recurring line “Yukka, dukka, yukka, dukka, ya, ya, ya.” There was one book to last the week. “Noise” was the beginning of a parade as well. All entries wore the same uniform, had the same number of performers and arrived at precise weekly intervals. The drill lasted ten months a year for four years. In December of the first year, the child said she wanted to get up off the kerb and go home…
Continue reading the full article: School is no Place for a Reader by Jennifer A. Franssen over at CNQ.
One of the best articles I have read lately about the state of the public school system, their so called “libraries”, literacy programs and what passes for education these days. Written from a distinctly Canadian perspective. Franssen’s writing is refreshing and insightful as she clearly articulates the disheartening perspective of many parents of young readers and the sad, but true experience of their eager progeny. A very worthy article, and highly recommended read.
Many of the author’s examples echoed a part of our own public school experience which led to the eventual decision to allow our children the freedom to read and learn in the comfort of their own home, at their own pace, surrounded by the books they love and the people who love them most.
So, what did you think? Was your experience of the school library the same as mine or more akin to that of the author’s daughter from the article? How do we foster a love of reading in the lives of the children within our care? Do you read full length books or mostly online articles, newspapers and magazines? How about our teens? How often do they read more than the latest text, tweet, Instagram or Facebook post? Do you have any favorite children’s books? What makes them worthy books in your opinion?© Una-Melina // Worthy Books & Things, 2013.
I vividly remember being sent from my year 2 classroom to the year 6 portakabin to pick out some reading books, as I had read everything from the junior school library and was thoroughly bored. My school was supportive but limited by the need to care for other children too. My secondary school and sixth form college were far worse – interminable hours of English Literature spent reading aloud from the book we’d been assigned to read over the summer, and no real discussion of the content for months. School can’t cater to everyone and it’s easier to focus on those who don’t tear through books in a few hours.
As a teacher, I always tried to offer choice of reading material to the students in my care. The book bins contained variety~ “author” selections, non fiction, simple readers to the more advanced junior novels, Newbery Winners, as much variety as I could get my hands on. Wonderful children’s stories launched our topic studies, themes, art, writing, creative ventures. We had reader’s circles, followed The Daily Five (The Sisters), Guided reading…! I sourced the library~ community and school. The children were encouraged to choose, “just right” material which looked “different,” based on choice and the student’s reading level, for their “Home” reading experience. My goal was to foster a love of literacy and many of the books were purchased by me for the children in the classroom to freely enjoy. I did this as I believe in the power of print to captivate and teach our young learners.
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