Readers creating readers

Readers creating readersReading a memoirSome rights reserved

Author Steven Layne fired up the audience at July’s New Zealand Literacy Association (NZLA) conference with his enthusiasm for reading. Speaking about his book Igniting a Passion for reading: Confessions of a Reading Arsonist, Layne took us through successful strategies for creating lifetime readers. An author of fiction and non fiction, he stated that ‘Teaching the skill of reading is viewed by many educators as a major objective; teaching the will of reading is often an afterthought’.

Humorous examples from his teaching days were told so passionately that I’m sure every teacher in the room wanted to ignite a ‘fire’ of their own in their classroom. My favourite suggestion in his book is about teaching kids how to ‘preview’ text. He would spend five/ten minutes every day familiarising students with the contents of a book asking questions like ‘where is the dedication in the book?’, ‘Having read the dedication, how do you know it is for the author’s daughter?’ He claims that understanding the components of a book encourages children to think when they read and use books interactively.

I was particularly pleased when he said he tells staff in schools that they are ALL heroes in children’s eyes. ALL includes everyone from the caretaker to the bus driver. This pertinent message was one Janice Rodrigues and I delivered at the conference a few days later. We used the term ‘role models’, but the message was the same. Students watch and model everyone’s behaviour therefore all staff need to put their best foot forward by reading, knowing their readers, and knowing children’s and YA literature. Layne’s fabulous example of a bus driver at an elementary school wheeling in her ‘hot reads’ on a BBQ grill, was priceless!

Also sharing the role model message was a not for profit group, who spoke about the informational texts that teachers in Nadi had created for their students. To create writers, you need to write and to create readers you need to read and provide access to appropriate material that students are interested in and relate to and therefore will respond critically to. For some of the children it was the first time they had seen their vernacular in writing. Having the teachers be the writers was an effective way to connect literacy with culture and introduce the students to aspects of their cultural heritage.

Attending Junko Yokota’s (Director of the Center for Teaching through Children's Books in Chicago) workshop; ‘The digital reading world’ was a fantastic chance to discuss the prospect of digital taking over print. Junko is a former librarian and professor so obviously has a great relationship with print, but her workshop ultimately posed the question: Does a great book = a great app? Also, as educators we need to ask whether digital engagement encourages or disrupts student achievement. Evaluating digital books and apps properly means that educators can make better choices for their students.

The conference offered a refreshing global perspective on literacy and forged lively discussion amongst academics and teachers, with an invitation to Chicago thrown in! I may just make a reservation for next year.

In closing, Fifi Colston introduced her new book ‘Wearable Wonders’ which I was lucky enough to win a copy of! See Fifi's website for more of her creations

Find out more about creating readers

Image by Ben Andreas Harding

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