Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gateway to Knowledge

As a former yet still 6-12 certified English teacher I am quite fascinated by the language development of my children. At this point, I am amazed at the number of words Elizabeth knows - mustache, snow flake, chap stick, and speed boat are a few that I know I never incorporated into her daily vocabulary lessons. I thoroughly enjoy grammar; therefore, I have thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth's progress with standard English grammar. It is adorable that she refers to herself as "you". It also makes complete sense. Just as we call her Elizabeth, we also use the pronoun you when speaking with her. Similar to her vocabulary progression, most of her development with grammar has been the result of her own independent study. Her pronoun confusion is diminishing. The fact that I still find adorable her attempts to use pronouns correctly is not.

Back track to 3 month old Catherine, and my fascination with language development soars. Some of her happiest times are when she has the undivided attention of a face who mimics, answers and responds to her coos, goos, gahs, and bubs. I know that she's still trying to gain greater control of her CNS, so I'm sure that some of her noises are uncontrollable. Others, though, reflect her foray into language and I know that my incoherent face time with her is paving the way for her acquisition and understanding of words.

Entering elementary (PreK to Grade 8) education after beginning my career in high school opened my eyes and gave me an appreciation for the importance and difficulty of teaching students how to read. Having children of my own has furthered this awakening to include the importance and difficulty of developing emergent literacy skills in younger-than-school-aged children.

As our Diocese has prepared for the upcoming shift to the Common Core State Standards, the role that reading plays in these new benchmarks is readily apparent. Reading is to span across all subjects. Furthermore, the CCSS focuses on reading non-fiction texts instead of fiction. In the CCSS, students must develop decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills sooner and with much more depth than before. All teachers, regardless of grade level, content area or comfort level, will have a hand in helping students gain familiarity with and skill at comprehending non-fictional texts. All subjects in all grade levels should be text dependent and driven.

Most students enter school and then learn how to read. The first few years, especially Kindergarten, are geared toward teaching students how to read. Around 4th grade, the emphasis shifts to using reading as a way to learn. By Middle School, students use reading as the primary mechanism by which they continue to learn.

Reading is the gateway to knowledge. Regardless of future advances along the information super highway - eReaders, tablets, apps, touch screen, Siri - being able to read will be your ticket to ride. Without it you are stuck. With it you have knowledge, power and freedom to go wherever your mind and the words you know can take you.

The more you read, the more you'll know and the more places you'll be able to go.

Oh, the places you'll go...