Content Area Learning Becomes The Core Form of Learning In Middle Grade

Updated: Oct 28

Here is how reading for pleasure, outside of school helps children to be better equipped for higher classes.



There are homes in which books are steady companions for some or all in the family and there are homes where the average number of books read in a year might be as low as one or a two. This could be on account of several reasons unique to each home. The impact unfortunately is felt only in the higher grades when the syllabus grows, the textual content increases and evaluation becomes even more strict. Signing up for a "reading" or "English language" classes then, helps only a little. By grades 6 & 7, the gap between avid readers and those who don't read much has grown wider. The avid readers are a lot more adept at handling a variety of text, with better vocabulary resulting in enhanced comprehension abilities. While those who don't freely read much, tend to lag behind.


By grades 6 & 7, the gap between avid readers and those who don't read much has grown wider. The avid readers are a lot more adept at handling a variety of text, with better vocabulary resulting in enhanced comprehension abilities. While those who don't freely read much tend to lag behind.


Better vocabulary makes it easy to comprehend a variety of texts.
An average fifth grader reading about twenty five minutes a day will encounter about twenty thousand unfamiliar words, which could result in a net gain of about a thousand words. The amount of free reading children do is the best predictor of vocabulary expansion. (Fielding, Wilson and Anderson (1986)*

* Fielding, L.P Wilson and R.Anderson, 1986, "A New Focus On Free Reading. The Role of Trade Books in Reading Instruction.


Ironically those who have poor vocabulary tend to read slowly and hence find it difficult to comprehend texts. As a result, they are the most reluctant to read.


How can these children be helped?
  • Giving them the power to choose the book they want to read not what they 'should' be reading for their age group. - Enrolling in a good library with a helpful librarian makes a world of difference over time. There are no shortcuts here.

  • Enabling them to decide if the text is suited to their reading level or not. Typically more than five new words in a page suggests that they are not yet ready for it. Age group indications on books are general indicators. They indicate the level of text as well as suitability of content.

  • Setting goals by themselves: If your child finds a book marked for his/her age group difficult, but yet wants to read it, let the book become a goal that they fix on their own to read. Offer support and help them through the journey by showing "how".

  • Avenues to discuss books: It could be a parent and child talking about a book or it can be a book club in which children read a book together. Discussions pave the way not only for discovering new perspectives but also enables children to derive meaning from context in the book. In addition, there is room to discuss similes and metaphors, the need for them and how they can be interpreted better based on the story in the book. These discussions help the child use these techniques even while reading thus making hard texts easier to handle and decipher.

Discussions pave the way not only for discovering new perspectives but also enables children to derive meaning from context in the book. In addition, there is room to discuss similes and metaphors, the need for them and how they can be interpreted better based on the story in the book.
  • Collaboration: Reenforcing the fact that as a reader, one is not alone. The challenges that one faces can be faced by others and sometimes, being open to accept help makes a world of difference. The help needn't always be from an adult but can also be from a good friend.

Reenforcing the fact that as a reader, one is not alone.
  • Not judging their reading preferences: A disheartened parent once shared that her child loves reading toilet humor books and went on to ask if these books qualify as suitable children's literature. Later in the same conversation, the parent shared how the same child had asked a question about the tough choices that people had to make in time of Hitler. This child might pick book such as Captain Underpants more often than books that have been 'officially' approved by adults. His question arose from somewhere, in all probability from a book that he read somewhere. He had read about Hitler. When you stop choosing books for them and allow them to make the effort, you will begin to notice that gradually they begin to try different kinds of books provided they have access to a good library.

Modern children's literature has become adept at intertwining humor with stories based on actual incidents to make it easier for the reader to absorb the content of the book. These books may not ofcourse have toilet humor but there could be silly instances which make the content of the book lighter and somewhere encourage the child to think and ask questions.

  • Multiple ways to learn new words other than only relying on a dictionary: When you don't know a word, refer the dictionary. This is a dictum that we have grown up with. How effective this approach is has been subject to scrutiny. Research indicates that this approach alone does not show the reader how the word can be used in more than one instance. The dictionary gives the meaning and perhaps a sentence. Looking for the word can be time consuming and hence may prevent the reader from making an effort.

Alternatives to try along with reliance on a good dictionary is websites such as vocabulary.com that provide plenty of information about the word, several instances in which it can be used and a fun quiz to ensure the meaning has been registered. Readers can even decipher from the context. For eg. a young reader at the Young Readers' Club got stuck with the word, "brandishing" in the book he was reading. He was asked to visualise the scene based on the text given. The text read, "The old man was walking down the garden path, looking cross and brandishing his stick at any one who came in his way." The sentence provides a visual of this man, the clue that he is angry and he is using the stick in a particular way against anyone who comes in front of him. Given that context, the reader immediately said that "He was swishing his stick in anger." It is likely that he will remember this word for a longer time than if he had looked up a dictionary to find its meaning.


Every child can be a reader. All that they need is access to books, freedom to choose sans judgement, freedom to abandon a book for a reason and someone with whom that can talk about books.


 

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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the the Young Writers' Club program for the 12-14 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practices one's writing skills.

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