I recently read that: A presentation by an expert has more impact on students than students reading the same material. That’s an interesting proposition, but to me it misses the entire point of delightful reading. Reading “beautifully,” especially to ourselves, carries a depth of connection with the material or narrative that isn’t available in the monotone, accurate or speedy, but lifeless, reading so common in beginners, working on their “reading skills.” Novice readers don’t understand the delights available through reading self-selected books. So, too often, they read lifelessly, and eventually don’t become lifelong readers.
That presentation comment also made me think that the opinion couldn’t come from much of a reader or someone who even fully knows powerful readers and the richness that independence in learning through deep reading inevitably brings.
A solid oral presentation is predictably peppered with facial expressions, gestures, projected graphics and supporting illustrations. Successful speeches tend to flow beautifully using rich, explicit language–language much like that which is available in beautifully composed texts.
I’m suggesting that the difference between the impact on children of the animated speech of a bona fide expert and the non-animated mechanical reading of children and other new readers in general isn’t a surprise. It’s just an indication of early development in growing readers. Immaturity in reading, however, can, through nurturing experiences, be expanded into magnificent capabilities.
Merging author expertise with reader anticipation can eclipse the witnessing of expert talks. So, the challenge falls to us to teach readers of all ages, but in particular young readers, to read aloud to others (and eventually to themselves) in a manner that is as lively and engaging as a talented speaker sharing the same topic or telling the same story. That can then grow into reading animatedly for themselves.
Step one, naturally, is that we provide children with consistent demonstrations of our own excellent interpretive reading. Lucky children have been read to with emotion and expression by parents and teachers, instilling in them the clear vision and expectation that all self-chosen reading, can be experienced richly, even when enjoyed silently.
We also must show children that reading aloud is not merely a performance for others. It’s essential that we teach kids that reading isn’t just for parental or for teacher approval. Consider it just like dancers who love to dance, with or without an audience and artists who sometimes don’t even share their paintings or music with others.
We must then talk with kids about how fun it is to read for ourselves and to others. Kids need to clearly see how much WE truly enjoy reading thoughtfully and with emotion, and how that in turn makes their experience of the author’s and illustrator’s creations so much more enjoyable.
When children learn how emotionally full and experientially rich reading experiences can be, they are positioned to develop themselves as lifelong readers.
Reading beauty ultimately leads children to grow into lifelong learners.