Memories of Reading

I recently attended an education research conference where PhD and master’s students, along with other scholars, presented their work. One of the presentations I attended was “Family Literacy Practices: Traditions and Transitions” by Althea Duren and Cynthia Januszka. Their paper discussed family literary practices in a historical context, but also shared the content of practices they teach the parents of minority students to help improve literary outcomes.  Historically, the teaching of literacy was the responsibility of the family, but more recently has become the responsibility of the school. Many minority students who are only learning literacy from school are falling behind, so Duren and Janusszka have developed a workshop to help teach parents how to engage their children in literacy at home.

Their workshop, called Reading Matters, provides best practices for parents unsure how to support their child’s reading. The “matters” part of the workshop name is a helpful guide for the reading practices:

M – Mood: read when your child is in the mood (don’t force it)
A – Age: reading something age appropriate
T – Time: read regularly with your child, 20 minutes a day is best
T – Test: ask who, what, where, how, and why questions to help you child understand
E – Expression: use expression when reading out loud to keep your child interested
R – Relate: relate what is happening in the book to real life events
S – Sit: sit with your child so that you can both see the book, creating an emotional bond

As they discussed these practices, they emphasized that children need to develop positive associations with reading. Duran mentioned one mother who said that when her child was bad the punishment was to go read for 20 minutes! She of course told her that was NOT a good practice. To me it seemed common sense that it would result in a child who did not like reading because of a negative associtation. A child should read because they want to, to because they have to.

During this seminar, I thought back to my history of reading growing up and I realized that the only negative memory associated with reading that I have is one time on a family trip my dad got mad at me because I wouldn’t stop reading at the dinner table in a restaurant. I was reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and it must have been some time in my early teenage years. I never wanted to put books down.

When I was a child, long after I was no longer afraid of the dark, I pretended I was still afraid so that I could keep the closet light on. This light was enough to allow me to read to my hearts content.

In my family, reading was a treasured thing. My parents were always reading. The earliest book I remember is Pickle Things. My brother and I loved eating pickles, so it should have been no surprise that we were obsessed with a book about everything in the world being made of pickles. This book is, sadly, no longer in print, but I tracked down a copy for my brother’s birthday. My father says we never got tired of it, though I’m sure he got pretty sick of reading Pickle Things again and again.

I recall my father telling stories from The Hobbit, though I don’t remember him actually reading out loud from it. I remember piling onto my parent’s bed for them to read out loud from The Chronicles of Narnia. There were other books, of course, but the point is that in my family we engaged in practices the instilled in my brother and I the idea that reading is important–and fun! The practices taught by the Reading Matters workshop are so important. Reading can’t just be left to the schools to teach, it needs to be integrated into children’s play times and connected to their lives.

Now that I am an adult, I don’t read as much as I would like, but I can’t imagine a world without reading. Some books I can still read in one sitting, and I take great pleasure in those now infrequent opportunities. When I have kids, I can’t wait to share books with them–even if it means reading Pickle Things 10 times a day.

2 Responses to “Memories of Reading”
  1. Althea Duren says:

    Thank you for highlighting our session. Since the summer presentation, I have asked the same question of “How many of you were read to as a child?” in several more sessions, and have received the same response of approximately 20% of the audience answering affirmatively. You’re were one of those who were privileged to have had a parent to tell you and read you stories. Your father is to be applauded for the fond memories you have that will be forever embedded in your thinking. Please continue your advocacy of having parents read to their children…a campaign worth volumes of value! Thanks again.

  2. Gloria Landry says:

    I frequently read Pickle Things to both my daughters (10 years difference in age) and it is one book that I have never donated out of our bookshelf. My youngest daughter is in high school now and she’s read it to her cousin’s son. On average our family donates 50-200 books a year that we’ve saved but no longer read; making room for new ones. School-age appropriate books that tie in with classroom curriculum are donated to teacher’s classroom bookshelves (my husband is a Titanic and history buff) and general science, music, writing are donated to school librarians. The trade paperbacks are nice donations to public libraries. If they cannot be put on the shelf, then the penny sale/fundraiser has some items for the library funds.

    Thank you for bringing a smile to our faces when we found this on your blog.

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