Back in November, during a tweetup, I made a comment linking storytelling and reading. My premise was, and is, that storytelling at an early age rather than the traditional reading lesson, that of learning the ABCs and phonics, will develop stronger and life-long readers as the child develops and matures into an avid reading adult. Soon after my post I received a reply questioning this theory, which is not exactly mine as I “learned” of it through my involvement with Waldorf Education. I will mention that although I strongly believe in the Waldorf pedagogy as a whole, parents and educators must be open to the various core curricula available to teach a child to read. At any rate, the question presented was, “how can we keep storytelling from becoming a crutch for poor readers?” That storytelling can help create readers, and initiate creativity, is good, but how to detect a student relying on the oral lesson to avoid and/or mask a reading difficulty? Great question! I can only offer a qualified response but not a definitive one.
Now I must disclose that I am not a reading professional. My experience comes from my personal reading development and language learning. As I often mention, I came to the US from México as a young girl only knowing the Spanish language and refusing to learn the English language. My reading expertise also encompasses my experience as a parent of five children, ages 3 through 13, at different stages of their reading education, human development, language(s) acquisition, and having been exposed to differing pedagogies, that is, traditional vs. alternative, i.e. public education vs. Waldorf Education. In addition, my professional instruction and career is in foreign language studies, acquisition, and literature. And lastly, and perhaps more significant, I am an avid reader, who was never exposed to early, formal, or traditional reading lessons, in fact was a late reader and a slow reader in both languages. My home environment was not filled with books and I rarely experienced my family reading. However, my childhood memories are filled with storytelling, and if you catch me in person I’ll tell you a story or two.
Returning to the storytelling question and reading, my first thought would be initiate a re-examination of the current standards and expectations by parents and educators regarding children, their natural human development and subsequent reading instruction. Can we honestly and truly expect a 5 year old to enjoy and appreciate the solitary act of quiet reading and for how long, especially when he/she has been overexposed to highly stimulating media and electronic games? We adults are contradicting ourselves in our teaching and blaming the supposed “learning difficulty” on our own children.
Additionally, I would initiate a re-examination of the current priorities and expectations given to parenting and teaching. With the impractical and unnatural educational standards and expectations, adults have set themselves up for failure, and hence, disillusioned with our teachers. We look forward to becoming proud parents of healthy, adorable, and intelligent children, yet we fail to make an effort to education ourselves on parenting and child development. We prioritize our professional development, if any, ahead of our parental development. Why? It may be an unintentional and unconscious act but a re-examination is long overdue. Also, the teaching profession is one described as “a labor of love” and not a profession one elects for its value and recompense. Why would we value, trust, and expect to recompense all of our teachers, K through 12 and beyond, with competitive salaries, secured benefits, expected professional development, and absolute collaborative support from involved, informed, and educated parents? Well, because they are our children and we should expect that from ourselves as the standards of quality parenting. Yes, it is a lot, and I’ll be the first to admit that it is a demanding role and the toughest job I have ever had, however, well-rewarded by the children and their natural, developmental successes.
Storytelling, a time spent as a parent and teacher, learning the warmth of words, as well as their power. Sparking creative imagination, a curious mind, and astute thinking, storytelling is the foundation to an avid reader, thirsting for new ideas and addicted to words. Try it, pop in an audio book into your old cassette player, slide its CD into your car stereo, download it, or simple read to the whole family. You will be pleasantly surprised at the joy it will bring.
Thank you to @pdguymikeg for your question, as it brought up a great subject for continued discussion. It is a subject that should not have a definitive answer, but one that should ignite creative dialogue that will compel us all to seek further knowledge and experience.
Here I include a list of bilingual youth titles to begin your storytelling experience by reading aloud with your group of students and children.
- The Ruiz Street Kids | Los muchachos de la Calle Ruiz by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
- Lorenzo series of titles by Lila & Rick Guzmán
ISBNs 9781558854710, 9781558853416, 9781558853928
- Walking Stars | Estrellas peregrinas by Victor Villaseñor
ISBNs 9781558853942, 9781558854628
- Trino series of titles by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
ISBNs 9781558853171, 9781558854738, 9781558852686, 9781558854584
- The Case of the Pen Gone Missing | El caso de la pluma perdida by René Saldaña, Jr.
- Upside Down and Backwards | De cabeza y al revés by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
- Witches, Owls, and Spooks | Brujas, lechuzas y espantos by Alonso M. Perales
- Who’s Buried in the Garden by Ray Villareal
- My Father, the Angel of Death by Ray Villareal