Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Reading Magic

I was sitting at Otherlands today, and this beautiful woman sat down in front of me, so of course I sketched her. I was looking right at her, and afterwards she told me she knew I was drawing her, but she was nice enough to stay relatively still.
One of the reasons I found her so captivating was her resemblance to the woman in this painting by Eldzier Cortor. This was recently in an exhibition at the Dixon, and I spent a long time looking at it. The painting was made in the 1940s. 

What the woman pictured above was discussing with two other people at Otherlands was literacy education, a topic I love and think about often. Here's a sketch I did of what I consider to be literacy education done right:
This was sketched during the last Urban Sketchers meeting at the Pop-White Station Library. (There's another sketch group this Saturday!) As I sketched it, someone sketched me!
The reason I love what the children's librarian, Michelle Allen, has done here is because it allows children to believe that the animals are reading. This element of play is not just a good thing to have when teaching children to read, I believe it is the most important thing in the education of young children. I have taught kindergarten and first grade, and some of the fondest memories I have of the school year are when I would give them all a puppet, and tell them they must "read" a book with or to their puppet (we would do this every day). This happened after I had just modeled this behavior to them by reading aloud a story to my own puppet, Esme, and asking her questions about it. 

Too often, the bureaucrats try to take this element of play out of the schools. When I hear them use the word "data," I cringe. Why is that word so often spoken by bureaucrats who are involved in schools, but rarely do we hear the words "play," "magic," or "childhood" in connection with teaching literacy? I have a challenge for non-teachers involved in schools: every time you hear yourself use the words "data," or "assessment," create an opportunity for using one of the following words: "joy," "play," "magic." That will go a long way towards making the public schools better.

/end public service announcement

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