Reading role models

7 01 2008

A while ago a fellow parent asked me about an incident that had occurred in her daughter’s classroom.  She knew I was an advocate for libraries, and wanted to know what I thought of what she had witnessed that morning.

Upon entering the classroom as a parent helper, she noted that all the students were sitting quietly at their desks, as was the teacher.  The students were reading.  She approached the teacher’s desk, her entry still unnoticed. She spoke, and was still not acknowledged by the teacher, who appeared to be staring out the window.  It wasn’t until she was right next to his desk that he realised she was there, and with a start, removed the earphones of his iPod.

I told her what I thought.  Somewhere in there, the words “utterly disgraceful” probably passed my lips.  Clearly she was bothered, especially when she feels her 7 year old daughter needs more help with her reading, so I assured her it would be appropriate for her to take the matter further if she felt it necessary. 

So here is a class of, say, 20 students, in a school with no teacher librarian, and a classroom teacher whom I think it is safe to assume is not a reader. Who is their reading role model? If their parents are not (and I know plenty of very nice parents who would not read often, or at least not when their young children are awake) then when do these kids ever see an adult reading for pleasure? 

Each year the Premier sends out a list for the PRC, but is the Premier seen as a reader?  Is the school principal seen reading?  Are teachers seen reading?  Do any of these people talk to students about their reading?  Ah, but talking about reading is a whole other blog entry. This one is just about the reading example being set, or not, as in the above example. 

So did the mum in question take the matter further?  No, she didn’t.  She did think about it though, and concluded that the teacher appeared so embarrassed to be caught out, she felt that was consequence enough. 

He should thank his lucky stars he’s not my child’s teacher.

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7 responses

7 01 2008
Dona

Grrr. I cannot believe we have teachers like there out there and in a primary school!! I get upset when I see secondary teachers sitting behind their desk, doing correction etc, instead of walking around the room or working with a student or group.

I am also hard at work at trying to get secondary teachers modelling reading when they have their classes in the silent reading area instead of again, doing correction, planning, working on the computer, etc. Some do a great job and their kids are usually reading. With the other teachers the kids are often talking (NOT SHARING their reading!!). Gradually getting there, but is hard work.

I am going to try and change the rules for using the reading area this year. I want to limit the kids reading newspapers, magazines, Guiness Book of Records, Where’s Wally to one lesson a month. I have found that when they are allowed to read these items, they don’t really read them, but flick through the pictures and generally talk, talk, talk. Also, since this has become the mode of “silent reading”, the borrowing of magazines and Guiness Book of Records and students reading them during lunch time has dropped dramatically.

10 01 2008
Debbi

I am a homeschooling mum of two girls. I removed my girls from school for behaviour by teachers such as described by other comments here. My girls have excelled in reading since leaving “school” and have, in fact, excelled in all learning areas seeing as they are no longer ignored or passed over because of the ill-behaviour of other students or bored teachers. Re the Premier’s Reading Challenge… I am disgusted that this years’ list for Year 3 and 4 students includes so many books of an occult nature! Who picks these books? Does the Premier actually pick them, read them, support their choice? Really??? I too now believe that this is just a publicity stunt to prove that the Dept are doing their job, that they care etc. I feel so sad for the Teacher/Librarians caught in this debarcle. I once felt pressured to include this Challenge as part of our at home curriculum, but now I will officially boycott. The Dept tell me they dont push any religious education – if it happens, it happens – if not, then its not a worry. But then the occult books are allowed and are not in any way sent home with warnings of what may be taught or picked up by our children. The tally sheet provided by the PRC site states on the top of it that discretion must be taken to ensure the appropriateness of the books per age of child, but nowhere is any warning given to possible book content, just a broad BEWARE! That’s just not good enough! I am sure a similar amount of recommended books of a Christian nature would cause a total rucous and would not be allowed. So why then are our children being told that it’s ok to read the Witch in Training books?????

11 01 2008
hubinfo

Hi Debbi,
In fairness to the teacher in question, he is most likely an inspirational teacher in some areas, but reading isn’t one of them. Teachers, like everyone else, have strengths and weaknesses, and our concern is that so many schools, especially primary schools, don’t have teacher librarians, so there is no guarantee there’s anyone on staff who is passionate about reading and knowlegeable about books.
As for the PRC, it’s fine for what it is, a reading challenge, and plenty of students like taking part in it. The criticism is that it comes with no real support to implement it, despite requiring a great deal of time to organise, and it is touted as a literacy initiative. Providing a list of books and a certificate is not a literacy initiative. If our Premiers want children to read, they need to provide them with regular access to a library, staffed by a teacher librarian to match each student with reading to suit them.

As for book selection, it is up to each parent and/or teacher to judge that for each child. The PRC list offers a huge choice of titles to cater for a wide range of reading tastes. Magical and fantasy themes will always be popular in children’s literature. Part of the reading experience is to look at a cover, read the blurb, maybe the first chapter, and decide if it’s suitable. Students need to see this process, and learn to do it for themselves. There are also plenty of blurbs and reviews available online. Amazon is a great place for this.

13 01 2008
Mandie

How do you know the teacher was not in fact ‘reading’ by listening to an audio story on his ipod? I think we all like to jump to conclusions about what we feel is really happening in classrooms without really investigating. Did the parent in question discuss her concerns with the teacher? No. She gossiped about it to other parents. Hardly productive or proactive.

14 01 2008
Dianne

Well, maybe the teacher was listening to an audio book or a podcast? If he was engrossed in what he was listening to, it probably wasn’t just music as this can be played in the background while one does other things. But then would listening to a story on tape be counted as reading? Did the mother ask what he was listening to?

Having a child who found reading difficult, we found audio books a lifesaver and way of introducing great literature to him. Maybe the teacher was researching a book he was going to read to the class? or was listening for pleasure – finding listening easier for him than reading. Not all ipods in the years are bad.

14 01 2008
hubinfo

Hi Mandie,

You’ll be happy to know that the mother did not gossip with other parents. She discussed it with me in confidence because she was upset by the incident, and wanted a second opinion. She approached me because she knows my background. We do in fact know it was music, something which I admit I did not make clear in my original post. Apologies for that.

3 01 2009
Hazel Edwards

Reading role models really matter. Why not try audio books in the car when transporting children. Or read a serial nightly with each family member reading a page or so. Reading jokes is a good way to encourage reluctant readers. Or short humorous poems. One father in his thirties admitted to me he read his 9 year old’s Garth Nix books. They swap. Great role model for young males if ‘Beaut blokes’ read too.
Having co-written ‘Cycling Solo;Ireland to Istanbul’ with my son, I find it’s great to have a book which teenage males read as well as male cyclists.

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