By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins
I was recently reading an article about a father-turned-author because he was trying to encourage his child to read. The father had noticed his son’s vocabulary becoming stagnant, and he decided to do something about it by starting an in-home reading club. You can read about his success (in his goal, and later in publishing) here.
What struck me was how I had a similar experience with a middle-schooler. I has observed a severe reading comprehension problem when I asked the child to read, and the summaries I received did not match up with the stories. After a mandated hour of reading a day and having the child build a list of “new and unknown words” I discovered that it was a vocabulary issue. Often times the child would pretend to know a word or just skip over it all together. The child didn’t expect that I would not only go over the mandated reading session, but also go through the book myself and ask if the child knew what certain words meant. It turns out the original list of three words (that the child prepared at my request) turned out to be over thirty words long. Dictionaries were brought out and it became a frustrating experience for both of us.
I am no longer working with this child on reading and vocabulary building, but I hope the lessons that I taught go further than our time together. What you should take from this, is that it is never too late to build a love of reading. This is why there are stories about elderly people who took it upon themselves to become literate. It is an attainable skill with the right help.
There are people who dedicate their resources and lives to literacy. A few months back, I met Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, the founder of the African American Children’s Book Program. In February 2015, the 23rd African-American Children’s Book Far will take place in Philadelphia, PA. Make no mistake, literacy is a world-wide problem, not just the problem of American children, or ethnic minorities. Learning to read and loving to read both have to be taught. It is never as easy path, but it is a rewarding one.
How old were you when you learned to read? Have you always had a love of reading?