At FunDza, we have learnt that the best advocates of reading for pleasure are people who read themselves, and practice what they preach!
So we were delighted to be invited by Shine Literacy to do a workshop with their young volunteers for their Khanyisa project. These volunteers will be helping in Grade 4 classrooms to do individual reading with learners.
Our job was to convert those volunteers not already ‘believers’ in the power of reading for pleasure, and to provide all of them with content that we hoped would inspire them on their own reading journey.
First I gave facts and figures about what a game-changer reading for pleasure can be, and then they wrote and discussed their own reading experiences.
We looked a little more closely at the practice of reading itself. It is so much more than just a simple decoding and comprehension process – readers need to imagine scenes, develop understanding of what is being written using resources that they already possess, and think actively about what the text is presenting. However, although these skills can be shared in the classroom, they are much harder to monitor and assess, as they require higher order questions that do not have neat ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. This means that they are often neglected in teaching and testing. So the work that the Shine volunteers are going to be doing – talking about the texts with learners, and asking their opinions about them – is an essential component of becoming a reader.
To illustrate how vital our own resources are when we read, the volunteers wrote a scaffolded poem called ‘The voice in my head’ about the different pictures that readers could bring to their understanding of just one word.
Thanks to Shine, each volunteer received copies of two of our FunDza anthologies, and we ended the session with and discussing some of the texts. Shine has also collected a library of exciting titles that will be available to the volunteers.
When discussing their own reading, it was interesting to note that for quite a few of them who were readers, the inspiring individual in their reading lives had been high school English teachers. I hope that years in the future, some of their Grade 4 learners will identify these volunteers as the individuals who first showed them that reading can be fun!