I have written before about the value of books flowing into and through children’s lives and its importance for steady literacy development from birth through formal schooling and beyond. While this flow is critical, there’s another flow that is equally as critical for a child’s growth as reader and writer. Children also must receive generous invitations to participate in flowing, relaxed and animated conversations in their homes and classrooms.
Much of so-called “conversation” with kids is actually teachers and parents talking to kids and/or asking them questions to which there are correct answers. More productive conversations occur when adults invite children to actually discuss something that they read about or experienced–an invitation to share their thoughts and feelings.
I encourage parents and teachers to engage in such real conversation with kids, allowing each conversant to offer something to the shared discussion. The idea of conversation here is not to arrive at a predetermined conclusion about a known idea or issue. It’s about partnering together to sharpen a shared, possibly new understanding about something, addressing a concern or confusion, or jointly making an inquiry.
Sure, one participant could have much more to say or another could ask more questions. When this happens, go back to the notion of flow, as in a stream of information, many ideas or opinions that contribute to growing insights about life or the world for learners of all ages and abilities.
Children who are constantly immersed in such a stream of loving and sincere discussions about simple to complex issues learn to be fully engaged learners. Such a comfortable and regular flow provides kids with a rich medium for understanding how to freely inquire about, question, reflect upon and conclude things.
Experienced teachers readily remember the few children they’ve encountered who continually asked questions and wanted to discuss matters far beyond what the teacher had initially planned. THOSE youngsters just might be the ones who are headed for dramatic school and life success, growing into leaders and thinkers who make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Now, consider the power of the flow of conversation as it relates to engagement with stories and nonfiction books.
Further, consider its potential role in transitioning ordinary school reading into quiet forms of mental “conversation” between an individual reader and their books’ author.
The flow could continue as children imagine audiences for their own creations, strengthening mental tools for effective communication and for improving their grasp of the thoughts behind the creations of others.
Then, children’s conversations about reading and writing can flow into each others’ learning, expanding the potential of each participant’s knowledge base and across all literacies.
Just go with the flow.