Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tricking kids into loving books

In my recent reading I have been looking at, well, learning to read. Those tricky ways that teachers make you think you are having fun. I remember in second grade during our poetry unit our teacher told us for every person or object we read our poems aloud to every week we got a sticker. I once got over 100 stickers. Little did I know that by reading aloud I was improving my literacy, because lets be honest, I just wanted the cool animal stickers. I know not all teachers can bribe students the way mine did, but I'm finding more and more that there are two sides in literacy education. The first is teaching children how to read, the second is teaching children to love to read.

The more students realize how fun, rewarding, and entertaining reading can be, the more motivated they will be to learn. In my research on bibliotherapy, or books as therapy aids, many people highlight the need for humor to engage children, this goes triple or quadruple for building literacy. Why do children love Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and Jon Scieszka? Because they're funny. I'm a big fan of Jon Scieszka. First, he has possibly the most entertaining website ever. Second, his books are fabulous. Third, he started out as a teacher. Before his big break into writing Scieszka was an elementary school teacher and taught kids to read and to laugh. In a Horn Book podcast (free on itunes!) Scieszka talked about knowing his audience when he wrote, making the books funny for children, and while he never explicitly said this, I do believe part of his intention is building literacy through a love of reading.

Okay, so I'm not an expert. I honestly believe though that humor in books helps children WANT to read. I've been a big fan of the kids show Between The Lions for a long time, because aside from teaching literacy skills it teaches a love of reading. But every child I have asked about the show tells me that they don't really like it. How do we combine humor into what is sound in literacy methods? More teachers need to start writing, or at least people who know the fundamental literacy needs of children.

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