Ongoing demonstrations are how almost everything in a culture is efficiently passed along to succeeding generations. So it follows suit that learning to read is based upon “observable demonstrations,” actions that those of us who can read, must do for those who are new to reading. Plus, learning to read is largely a social activity. Additionally, for new readers to become accomplished readers, demonstrations must show them things like what reading is, when to do it, that doing it illuminates its value and worth, and of course, how to do it well. Really good demonstrations serve as conversation starters and are most productive when they trigger a question from the learner. Questions like:
“Why are you doing that?”
“Can I try that?”
Young ones are amazingly observant. They watch, listen and analyze everything that goes on around them, picking pick up on everything they find to be emotionally powerful, useful or enjoyable, and then they try it out.
Anything. The more emotionally charged, the more likely they will attempt it themselves.
“TIFFANY! Where on earth did you learn such language?!”
“Mommy says that all the time, Grandma…”
Children who have sensed the intensity or potential in a demonstration provided by a parent, teacher or older sibling who is writing, whether that person is purposefully providing a model for the child or is utterly oblivious to the kid’s presence, the youngster will want to try writing themselves. They’ll get a crayon and some paper and start scribbling, mimicking what she saw.
It is not unusual that she’ll excitedly hold up her composition and ask, “What did I write?”
While that is totally darling behavior in a three year old, this question initiates the first steps in a lifelong cycle of watching, trying, discussing, reflecting upon and questioning that will help her eventually learn to write well. Her efforts will only continue until she has learned what he wants to learn from the demonstration to which she carefully attended. Hence, if we wish for children to go through all the hard work to learn to be capable and effective readers, the emotional content of our demonstrations must not be downplayed or casual. We have to consistently show them that reading is personally important.
“Go ask your dad, honey. I’m reading right now.”
“Don’t pick my book up, I’ll lose my place!”
Similarly, when reading to children, keep in mind that stories and poetry should be read with dramatic facial expressions, fluent and expressive delivery, and grand gestures. Nonfiction reading should be peppered with wide-eyed…
“I didn’t know THAT!”
“No WONDER she needed so much courage!
Let’s all show new readers how wonderful the world of reading is, because only if they want to learn to read, will they keep using our demonstrations to get better.