Reading is out of this world!

Space-Sketched

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.

Robert 2

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.

Nor and Bec readingI have previously shared ideas about the importance of talking with and reading to young children, including here and here.

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.

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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.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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.

roto-spacesuit-mkiii-clean-new

 

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

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

30 thoughts on “Reading is out of this world!

  1. Marilyn Chapman

    I really enjoyed this post, Norah. On my blog this week there is a short story by a nine-year-old girl imagining life as an evacuee in World War. I love the imaginative title – Gingerbread Men and Cocoa. Here’s to young writers.

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  2. Pingback: In their own time | Norah Colvin

  3. Sacha Black

    I make a point of reading a MINIMUM of two books a day to my son. Have done since he was 3 months old! The childminder constantly says he always picks up books to bring to her. Have to say he has his faves though, he will gladly sit through them but getting him to sit through new material can be tricky!!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Fabulous Sacha! What a wonderful start you are giving your son. There are many different reasons children develop favourites and there is no harm (to him) reading the same ones over and over. In fact, it does a lot of good. He learns that the words in the book stay the same whereas the words in a told story may differ in each telling. He begins to see how the illustrations match the words on the page and add to the meaning; and starts to realise that it is the little black squiggly lines that Mum is looking at to read. He is learning grammar- the rhythms and patterns of language, what sounds right and what doesn’t, and the patterns become automatic. He may even start to recognize some of the words in bold or coloured type and join in with the ‘reading’. He may learn to recite the book ‘off by heart’ and use it as a first step into real reading for himself.
      As well as all this ‘reading’ learning, the favourites may be meeting a need he has at the time – something in the story he is puzzling about and trying to work out; or an emotion he is learning to deal with, finding out how others deal with it. He may enjoy the way the parent reads the story with voices, humour or hugs. There are any number of reasons, and you probably know them best yourself. No matter how familiar he becomes with the story, or how tired you become of reading it again and again, it is important to try to bring all the initial enthusiasm, interest and talk to the reading each time.
      Apologies, I’ve almost written a post in response to your comment. But it makes me wonder, have you seen Emily Gravett’s lovely book “Again!” http://www.amazon.com/Again-Emily-Gravett/dp/0330544039
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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      1. Sacha Black

        I haven’t but I shall be sure to check her out now 🙂 my son has a billion books and it makes me so proud to see him walk up and pick up books, real swell of pride. I said to my partner I dont care what he does, whether hes sporty or whatever as long as he likes books! Great point about all those things he would be learning I hadnt thought about it. He does love all the actions and funny voices 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          I agree. Both my children (now adults) loved reading, and still do! I don’t know what I would have done if they didn’t. One of the greatest pleasures in life is sharing books with young children. 🙂

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  4. writersideup

    Another great post, Norah 🙂 I do believe that, while reading to a child or seeing them read, it’s also reinforcing by pointing out what’s so wonderful about reading. “Don’t you just love snuggling up with a good book?” “There’s no better way to experience an adventure.” “It’s nice to relax and be quiet with a book, isn’t it?” “If I hadn’t read this book, I wouldn’t have known about…”

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Donna. I love the idea you have shared. It is very true. We freely talk about the fun we have doing other activities. It is just as important to discuss the “fun” and power of reading too. Thanks for joining in the conversation. 🙂

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  5. TanGental

    To read is such a privilege, opening up so many self learning opportunities, so many ways to challenge prejudice and bigotry and, most importantly, control. Lovely reminder.
    I read a post by Sacha Black, a lovely and helpful blogger on the books that inspired her to write. Have a look – https://sachablack.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/the-reading-like-a-writer-series-2-most-inspirational-books-ever/ – I think it is a fun and informative idea.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Geoff. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and joining in the conversation. To read is a privilege, but it is also a right. That is what makes me so frustrated when I hear of teachers turning children off reading.
      Thanks for alerting me to Sacha Black’s post. I don’t think I could write a definitive list of books that have influenced me to write. I have always written as I have always read. I love language and the power of words to inspire, amaze, create images, make me laugh, or cry … But I agree with you that it is a fun and informative idea. 🙂

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  6. Cultivating Questioners

    I think that this motivation piece is so often left out of reading instruction these days — which is so unfortunate, because it is perhaps the biggest factor in getting kids to make progress in reading. Last year I had a student who struggled tremendously with reading and I gave her book after book about whales (her passion) rather than the leveled books that she was “ready for.” Her reading improved, with help and support, but also because she so desperately wanted to be able to learn what the books had to say! This current craze with letters and numbers dictating what kids should read frightens me, because I think it undermines so much of the excitement that comes with reading. There needs to be a balance between interest and appropriateness, and right now, I don’t think we are there.

    I have been to many literacy meetings lately, and not once were what kids wanted to read, interest, or the bigger picture of why we want students to read mentioned. When I brought it up, it was minimized. I find it terribly discouraging.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I understand your discouragement, Nicole. How can they not see? It seems they focus on the minutiae and have totally lost sight of the big picture.But don’t let their blindness get you down. You are doing wonderful things to encourage your readers and develop in them a lifelong love of reading, or at least the ability to read purposefully throughout their lives. Reading real books, rather than readers, is far more important than reciting an out of context and meaningless list of letters and sounds. I have no doubt that your student benefited more from experiencing real books about whales than she would have from repetitive phonics activities. Keep up the great work. 🙂

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  7. Annecdotist

    Oh, reading is such an important skill, isn’t it? When we can do it, take it for granted, but people without that skill are so handicapped. You’re so right, we need to create the conditions in which children want to learn to read and to continue reading regularly. Sadly, I think some kids are put off by attempts to teach them to read before they are ready, which just gives the message that it’s hard or boring or both. You’re a great advocate for children’s natural curiosity that will get them in their own time, to where they need to be.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I always appreciate your supportive comments. Interesting that you mention the importance of one’s own time. I’m trying to work that into my response to Charli’s 2.00am flash challenge this week! 🙂

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  8. marjma2014

    Reading is changing, as technology moves forward, this is inevitable. I just hope the good old fashioned story book stays and doesn’t get lost forever in the process. Though the Storytime from Space site sounds interesting. I just hope we can keep on-line storytelling and the printed word, we need both!

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree! We need both, and many different means and opportunities! Who knows which will be the way that will lead another into reading! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  9. Bec

    What a fabulous program, I hope more stories will be added before too long. I wonder if a good invention would be a pretend book into which parents could insert their smartphones and similar devices so that they can manage the hectic requirements of life while still presenting to their children a ‘love of reading’! Like the old caricature of the schoolkid with a comic inside the text book. Thanks for the very interesting post!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. I’m not sure how well the ‘pretend’ book would work. I think clever children would see through that pretty quickly. Then what sort of behaviour would that be modelling? 🙂

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    2. Sarah Brentyn

      It IS a cool program! I, too, hope they get more stories added soon. (Had to laugh at your comic book inside textbooks / smartphones inside pretend books.) 😀 That would require some serious mulit-tasking / split-focus…I don’t think I could do it.

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