Friday, 23 September 2016

I see that Michael Mopurgo is

suggesting that children should be read to in the last half hour of the school day and sent home with something to think about.
It's a good idea - but it won't happen. There will be too many other things that schools think children "should" be doing.
I only ever taught one mainstream class. They were ten and eleven  year old children from a very poor area. There wasn't much money around, especially not for books. 
Most of their parents didn't think books were that important. They sent their children to school because the law required it but many of them didn't have great expectations or ambitions for their children. They assumed their children would do the sorts of work they were doing and most of those jobs required no post-secondary training. Some of the children knew they would leave school as soon as they were old enough and go and work where their parents worked. This was particularly true of the boys. The girls tended to think of life in terms of shop assistant or nurse's aide and then marriage and children. When I asked them what they wanted to be most of them looked at me blankly. One boy answered "doctor" and one girl answered "teacher". 
When I suggested that I would read a book to them and that they could choose the book they were even more confused. I told them I was going to teach them all to knit. They could make themselves football beanies while I read to them. Their confusion grew.
But, I taught them to knit. Two of the girls could already knit. They came from European backgrounds where such things were taught at home. We taught the rest of the class - and only one boy objected. (I had given them a history lesson on knitting and told them how it was once a skilled occupation for men with a seven year apprenticeship. ) 
And they sat there and knitted slowly, very slowly. I read to them. We read Roald Dahl, Ivan Southall, Colin Thiele, Randolph Stow, Gill Paton Walsh, and more. If they got through the work I had set I would read to them during the week and, whatever else happened, on Friday afternoons the last "lesson" was me reading to them. 
         "Just one more chapter! Please miss!" 
Their parents were wary at first. Was I just wasting time? They admitted that their children talked about the books at home.
I took over the school library in the following year - in those glorious far off days when schools had real libraries. My students from the previous year were in there immediately demanding more books like those I had read to them. They started to think it might be possible to be something more than their parents were. 
I don't know how many of them read now. I haven't seen most of them for many years. I am not likely to see them again. Somethingt tells me though that some of them might have retained the need to read virus. I hope they have.
If I had to go back into that same situation I would read to them again - but I would do it more often because I didn't do it enough. 

1 comment:

Allison said...

In fourth grade we got a new teacher after Christmas. She introduced a policy of reading to us after the lunchtime recess to give a means of slowing down, calming down, quieting down before lessons began again. I remember Mary Poppins, and Charlotte's Web, and Dr. Doolittle. I think we had some (all?) of the Little House books by Wilder. I really think there were more though how she could have read that many in half a year I have no clue.

It was a wonderful way to meet new books, new authors, new characters.