Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Club - for 6-year-olds?

For me reading is a passion. I am completely taken to another world when I read; I feel I am part of the book. I cry, I laugh, I read the best parts over and over again. I can imagine the characters' voices and the scenery.

I am always saddened when I hear that someone does not like to read. We teach reading at our school when the children are 5 and a half, and I have taught reading to even younger kids at other schools. I have always been careful not to make a "task" out of the process of learning to read. From the very beginning, in our classroom the children are encouraged to have fun, to engage the listener by using different voices, showing expression and, as I say, playing with the words.

Because of the concern that I have, that reading becomes more of a task than a pleasure for many kids, I lead a book club as an extracurricular activity. This year I will have two book clubs going: one for 6 year olds (J1) and, next semester, I will also have one for 7 year olds (J2).

Yes, a proper book club - just like an adult one. It's not a "class," there are no evaluations. It's just for fun! We eat and drink something together and we discuss the book, share our opinions, talk about the characters and question their intentions. What will they do next, we wonder. What if...?

When we teach reading in the classroom we follow a reading system. Even though we try to make it fun and interesting, there is an implicit message that the children pick up on. The children can see that as they progress there are different levels of difficulty, and they deduce that the point of reading is to move up the levels of difficulty. Of course, in the classroom I don't move the children to a new level until they can read with expression, but when we have book club there are no levels: all of us are reading the same book, and the level doesn't change as we go. I'll say it again: in book club there are no levels: we focus only on reading with expression, on getting engaged in the story, on seeing reading as a source of fun. I have noticed that there is a shift in the perception of reading - often a sort of "aha!" moment - as the children realize that it's not about achievement or levels, and as they experience the real point of learning to read. Suddenly, the children are more involved, and are not passive readers: they learn to "feel" the book.

"Ms Marra - I have movies in my head!"

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