April 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Someone I follow on twitter tweeted about this article today. While I agree with a lot of what Gallagher has to say about reading and what is important about reading, I think his “blame-the-technology-and/or-the-teacher” misses another HUGE point of failure.
Throughout the entire interview, he talks about how kids have all kinds of distractions and how they hate reading at school because of the focus not on reading for enjoyment, but reading for information. Reading to get the answers that will be on the test.
But he misses out entirely on the opportunity to say that parents should be reading with their kids too.
In the very first paragraph he says, “That lack of reading has created a gaping hole in students’ prior knowledge and background…”
But it isn’t just lack of reading. It’s lack of parenting.
I’m the father to a very talkative four (almost five) year old. She is already reading at a very high level, thanks in part to her grandparents who constantly send her books. But there was something else that we’ve done with her since the day she was born that a lot of parents don’t do.
We have adult conversations with her.
Gallagher comes very close to this point by saying
…a lot of students today are hurried children, in that they go to school and then have to go to work or football practice and then they go home and watch their little brother or sister. They don’t have time just to sit with a book.
The underlying truth there is that they’re not spending a lot of time having conversations with adults. That can, and probably does, account for a lack of prior knowledge in some areas. Reading alone can’t help a young child decipher the world around them. They need an adult there to help them understand the meanings of words and nuances in our language.
My daughter is constantly asking questions, to the point that sometimes I really just want her to be quiet. However, I understand that she is taking in everything…EVERYTHING we say and processing it. If we shut her down, and make her feel like she shouldn’t ask questions, make her feel like she should be seen and not heard, how detrimental to her development would that be?
Allowing a child to sit in front of the TV, computer, iPod, etc. for hours on end does the exact same thing. It may keep the kid quiet, but they’re not having any kind of meaningful interaction or conversations to help them understand what they’re seeing or hearing. And that comes down to parenting.
I see parents who just want their kids to shut up, to not bother them. I understand that they may have had a hard day at work, or be under stress, but there is only so much time to form a bond with your kids, and teach them to love and thirst for knowledge. It happens early, and if it’s squashed, just like language, it will be very hard for them to pick up when they’re older.
If a child learns early to seek out knowledge, the technology that is simply a distraction for an unmotivated child becomes a very valuable learning tool for the motivated child. But again, it comes down to adult interactions. They need an adult to show them how to use that technology to their advantage.
There are lots of distractions for kids, and lots of things in schools that may not stretch their brains as much as they can or should be stretched, but a love for learning and knowledge starts in one place: home. Yes, there are areas we as educators can do better, but until we can focus on those early formative years at home, and fix the problems of uninterested parents, let’s stop blaming everything else.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to fix everything that we have control over, but we should also be looking at the root of the problem.