We have heard it said many times before, reading is good for you. However, helping students to cultivate a love for reading is easier said than done. Teaching a child to read is great. Helping a child to develop a love for reading is even better, because he/ she will more than likely pass that love for reading, on to their own children one day.
It is very well documented that students’ reading habits are changing. Some may even argue that students are not reading less; they are just reading differently. For example, people are exchanging the traditional books for electronic books. But as teachers, we have observed that many students lack the ability to carry out sustained reading and we have the mandate of helping them to be able to do so. Here in the Middle East, people are quick to tell you that we live in an oral culture. This makes it even more challenging to cultivate a love for reading in students.
Last academic year, we were faced with this very dilemma in my school. Students were just not doing enough reading whether for pleasure or information. The reasons were many; not being able to choose books at their correct reading levels, not finding things they were interested in or simply not making the time to read. Then, we instituted DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time and things began to change. Below are some of the benefits we reaped when we instituted school wide DEaR time three mornings a week. During DEAR time, every single person in the school, from the principal to the Janitors had to drop everything and read.
Less stressful start to the day
DEAR time was used to replace the morning assembly three times each week. It made the start to those days so much calmer. Students and teachers along with all other members of staff came to school on those days, went straight to their classrooms or offices and read silently for pleasure for the first twenty minutes of the school day.
I must admit that it took some time and reminding to get this embedded. However, by term two when it became a school routine, those were some of the calmest starts to the school days we experienced.
It is said that everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. We encouraged students to read on topics that were of interest. That was our only guideline apart from them ensuring they could understand what they read. Students often reported learning something new each time they had DEAR time. These were not always what we could describe as big things but it added to the body of knowledge they were developing over the year.
This goes with the above benefit: the more the students read, the more words they gained exposure to, and these words will inevitably make their way into their everyday vocabulary. Being articulate and well-spoken is a great result of a reading programme that any teacher would be proud of. It could even aid in their future career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to do better, career wise.
Reading books is also vital for second language learners, as non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context, which will ameliorate their own speaking and writing fluency.
Better writing skills
This goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of vocabulary: exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on student’s own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence their own writing.
These benefits, we hope, will only grow and multiply as we increase DEAR time this year to four mornings each week.
By Leisa Simapili