30 Jul Reading Independently: A Personal Choice
A guest post by Sharon Turner primary school teacher and Mum of 3.
Over the years, I have always encouraged my children to read wherever possible. I have read to them, I have taken them to the library and bookshops to marvel at what is on offer, we have dressed up and acted out our favourite stories. I have listened to them read from the early, faltering first steps, to listening to them blossom in confidence and read with expression and feeling.
The Right Choice
It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realised something that I had not done: and that was to get them to choose their own book. I also realised that this was a common mistake as children in my class were not able to choose a book that was suitable for themselves either. And choosing a book may seem like a simple task but it is quite complex. The level has to be right for the reader, it has to engage them and spark their interest, and it has to be just challenging enough to stretch them. Over and over again I see in the classroom children choosing Harry Potter because they like the film, or choosing a book that has a funny cover: but they are never thinking about the content and often come unstuck as it is not a book that they can enjoy.
During my teacher training year I was lucky enough to listen to a lovely lady who like me, was passionate about books. She recommended that children should be choosing their own books and we as adults should not interfere in that process, even if the book choice is clearly unsuitable. So I thought about that advice and took my then 8 year old to the library and told him to pick one book. As predicted, he came back with the biggest book about Science that he could find. We carried it between us back to the car and once home he excitedly opened it. The pictures captured his imagination but the text was too advanced and he struggled to make sense of it.
The next day we took that book back and he chose another one. This time he thought carefully about what type of book he wanted to read. When he chose this time he looked at the front cover, he read the blurb and he sat down and read the first few pages. He decided this one was better suited and we took it home. Later that same day he announced it to be boring and he wanted to change it! So back to the library we went.
Take the Time
It takes time to get it right. It takes skill and experience to get it right. How often as an adult have you picked up a book only to put it back on the shelf? How often have you bought a book only to abandon it half way through? If children are not given the opportunity to choose a book for themselves, they will not develop that skill and invariably continue to choose books through school that are not accessible. And it is ok to not finish a book! There is nothing more dull than wading through a book that does not interest you. Children need to be given every opportunity to be immersed in all kinds of genres that challenge, motivate and inspire!