Reading is a wonderful pastime. Since you are reading this blog I am sure you will agree.
People read for many different reasons, including:
- for information e.g. about world events or something of interest, to find out what’s on offer, how to do something, or the time and place to catch a bus,
- to be challenged e.g. by philosophical or ethical arguments and viewpoints
- to stay in touch e.g. through letters, emails, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media
- to be enthralled by a story or delighted by poetic words and imagery
- to escape the everyday.
I am certain you could add to the list in breadth and specificity without too much trouble.
Developing a lifelong habit, if not love, of reading is important to fully function in society. The “bug” is more easily caught in early childhood but can be developed at any stage throughout life when its rewards become apparent.
Another highly influential factor in creating readers is for children to see adults engaged in reading for real purposes, for information and pleasure; and having the opportunity to discuss the purposes of, and ways of reading, different material e.g. the way we read a menu is different from the way we read a story or a newspaper.
Additionally, it is useful for children to realise that the importance of reading extends beyond the home. There may be opportunities for them to observe people reading in the workplace or to discuss the need for reading in different roles.
Another important aspect of reading that I have previously discussed, using ”The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle as an example here, is critical literacy, the ability to interrogate the veracity of the information, its source and author.
I recently read discussions about difficulty experienced incorporating non-fiction material, especially science information, into classroom reading programs. I was a bit blown away by this because I believe that children will be interested in anything and everything if it is presented in an interesting way.
An information book doesn’t have to be read all at once, from cover to cover in any particular order. It can be dipped into, pored over, or explored bit by bit.
Sometimes information can be found in a work of fiction, but it is important, as cautioned with “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, to check the source and the “facts”.
So to tie together the elements discussed above, these are important elements for motivating children to read:
- Talking with them about things of interest to them
- Reading to them
- Modelling and discussing positive reading habits
- Demonstrating the importance of reading
- Discussing the importance of not believing everything that is read and of evaluating the source of the information and the intent of the author
In my exploration this week of one of my favourite educational websites, edutopia, I discovered through a post written by Ben Johnson and called When Astronauts Read Aloud Children’s Stories – From Space! a site that met many of the above criteria: Story Time From Space
Story Time From Space features astronauts on the space station reading story books to children. At the moment there is one story available, but more are planned, as are teaching suggestions and activities, including experiments.
The story, Max Goes to the International Space Station is the first of a series of five stories written by Dr. Jeffrey Bennett who describes himself as “an astronomer by training and a teacher by trade, but currently spend most of my time as a writer.”
In his post, Johnson expands on that, describing Bennett as “a research associate at the University of Colorado Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, … (who) has worked at the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratories and NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.” He goes on to say that “Dr. Bennett strives to write books that are factually correct, fun, and interesting for students to read.” The experiments that the astronauts do will correspond to those in the books.
While parts of the Story Time From Space site are still “coming”, I think this project has great potential for motivating children to read and for inspiring an interest in the world and beyond. Being read a story by an astronaut isn’t something that happens every day!
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.