Sunday, April 12, 2020

Creating a reading culture in our schools, classrooms and homes

We have heard from several experts that reading consistently forms the basis of one’s literacy and a foundation for all our knowledge. Yet, when we try to coax children into reading extensively, we are often met with constraint or a general disinterest. While many children enjoy reading, many find it a challenging activity that needs to be completed somehow. The latter set of children may have apprehension towards reading when they are made to read texts that do not interest them or texts that are difficult for them to comprehend. This is why it becomes important to not just encourage children to read consistently, but to also create a reading culture in our schools and homes.

A reading culture promotes reading as an activity for pleasure and learning, not as a chore or an assigned task to be completed. It allows children to freely choose books around their interests and reading levels and does not need to have a fixed timing or location. An effective reading culture is consciously and consistently created in all spaces where children spend their time such as schools, classrooms and their homes. There are no set rules for reading and one can adapt the books, the schedule and other logistical demands based on ones need. In the following paragraphs, I have illustrated some ways in which I have tried to create a reading culture in my classroom and how anyone surrounded with children can use it for their spaces.

First, it’s of importance to understand that a reading culture creates space and time for books, above and beyond the ‘library’ periods and scheduled reading times. Hence, only library efforts or asking children to ‘just read’, are not sufficient efforts towards creating a reading culture.  While most schools now have libraries in place that houses books of all kinds for their students to read, their library visits are scheduled once a week in the time table. That’s 45 minutes of browsing books and reading, only once a week. This limited time period can hardly suffice for any reader. Children need to be surrounded by books at most times in order for them to create a relationship with them. Regular readers will agree that books have a pulse, a feeling, a sense of comfort as well as excitement. We and our children need to spend time with books in order to know them well and in turn create a desire to spend more time with them. Scheduling only a weekly short period or scheduling few minutes in a day would hardly suffice if we would like to achieve this. This is why our classrooms and our homes need to have reading nooks and corners that gradually encourage children to explore books and begin reading regularly, at their own pace and liking. I believe that it’s our classrooms and our homes that can be a meeting point for more book time.

In schools, children spend a lot of time in and around their classrooms. I have seen classrooms filled with discussions, learning, chattering and free time. So is the case with our homes. These are the spaces where children find their own ‘place’ within the school and larger society. These spaces can be transformed into a reading zone, quite quickly. I have tried it in my classroom by creating a corner where books are displayed in an inviting and accessible manner. To encourage children to spend more time reading, the books need to be selected based on their interest and placed in a manner that is welcoming. This could include short shelves for young children, easily visible books and encouragement that this home or classroom library is a free space where they can walk up to and choose and read books of their liking.

 The selection of the books needs to be done carefully too. The collection should have books that range from children’s’ interests to what they are learning in the class and outside. For example, if a child has shown an interest in some animals, try and include books about different types of animals, their habitats, hunting patterns and so on. This does not mean that books only need to be non-fiction that gives out information about relevant topics, but it is equally important to add fictional stories about the topics they are showing interest in. There should be books for pleasure reading such as stories, fairy tales, folk tales and comics. In addition to this, there should also be books for research on topics that students are familiar with and topics which are being introduced in their class. This is essentially the reference section but it could also include stories that explore the theme of nature, animals, climate change history, music, arts, science and more. This selection should be on the basis of the class level.

 In order to ensure higher accessibility of books, there should also be books for the different reading levels of the children. Often, children who are not fluent get discouraged to read books it that particular language as they find it difficult to comprehend. If a child is handed the right reading level (eg: easy vocabulary, more pictures etc.), their interest in learning about any topic is bound to continue.

In addition to creating a classroom library, it is all the more important to create readers who like to be engaged with books. Children often learn to emulate the actions of adults around them. In order for our children to like spending time with books, the adults around them (teachers, parents, siblings) need to be equally spending time reading them. Reading books individually as well as reading them aloud to children is a crucial aspect of creating a reading culture, in our homes as well as in schools. It is this reading culture that will enrich our classrooms, home and children’s lives. It will allow us and our students to comfortably pick a book and spend hours with it.

Creating a reading culture and spending quality time with books is emphasized by many educators because books create a mirror for us to look in ourselves and contemplate our experiences. At the same time, they also offer us a window to enjoy the view of other places, people and look at the world from different perspectives. It is these books that become our stepping stones to learn about the world. 

- Riya Parikh

(Riya joined Vidyashram-The Southpoint School as a full-time teacher and research assistant in the June 2019. She teaches English and Social Studies to our primary and middle school students. Second to teaching is her love for children's literature and libraries. She manages the Southpoint Libraries on campus and also works on designing for our school's events. )

1 comment:

  1. जितना मुझे समझ में आया आपका लेख व विचार बहुत ही सुंदर तथा अभिभावकों व छात्रों के लिए प्रेरणा दायक तथा अनुकूलनीय है|
    मेरा विद्यालय के सभी अध्यापक/अध्यापिकाओ से विनम्र निवेदन है कि कृपया अपने लेख को हिंदी भाषा में भी लिखे जिससे अधिकांश अभिभावक व छात्र (जिनकी अंग्रेजी भाषा कमजोर है) भी आपकी लेखो से लाभावन्तित हो सके|

    मदन मोहन मिश्र