IS THERE A MAGIC BULLET for READING? YEP. HERE’S ONE STORY…
As most of you know, I teach reading to our learners with Down syndrome, inspired forever by the quick success my son Jonathan (now 31) had at age 5 when I first taught him. Reading changed Jonathan’s life, and I have dedicated the last 25 years of my life to making that happen for others.
So here’s a current story about one of my students. I’ll call him Jeremy, since that’s not his name. Jeremy is a Total Teen with a joker attitude. In his first session, I found myself fist-bumping him and speaking teen jargon just to get myself in the front door with him.
He was, like, soooo not interested in reading. Which of course is why his mom brought him to me in the first place. He had some ability but was just flat-out not interested in reading.
But we got along well, and soon he was totally cooperative. You have all probably heard my rant about teaching reading by “going in through the heart and teaching to the brain.” About putting materials in front of our kids that they love, and nothing else until they’re hooked on interest and success. About designing those materials so the brain can grasp and retain the info; about creating personal books and modifying trade books. Yes?
So last week in Jeremy’s session, I suddenly remembered a Shrek 2 book I had painstakingly modified. It was originally a long read-aloud, and took time to modify. Was it worth it? Ask all the teen boys I’ve taught. They love it. It’s not only on target for their interests, it’s brain friendly: large type, double spacing between words, all the things I preach about. So I got the book out for Jeremy.
Fast forward to the end of his session. We had gotten about halfway through the book. “It’s time to stop, Jeremy,” I said. “NO!!” he said, grabbing the book. “Keep reading!” My logic that our time was up did not prevail, and I had to stoop to fetching mom from the other room. She came in, sized up the situation, and her jaw dropped. “He has never felt that way about a book in his entire life.”
With Jeremy still clutching the book to his chest, I let them take the modified book home for a while. This week, Jeremy and I plunged right back into Shrek 2, and his enthusiasm and willingness to work were undaunted.
The proof is in the pudding. Or in the kingdom of “Far, Far Away,” if you’re a Shrekkie.
“Go in through the heart and teach to the brain.” This works. Trust me. It really works.
From Far, Far Away-