I once had a kid accuse me of torturing another kid. Today, I am here to renounce torture.
This is my experience with two little boys that set me on a journey to explore every angle of literacy and learning.
“Mr. Fletcher, you’re torturing him.”
Here’s how it all went down. A few years ago, I was working with children who had been defined as emotionally impaired at an Elementary school in Michigan.
A typical day in that classroom looked like this:
Kid gets in trouble.
Kid gets sent to my room.
I had to figure out and find something “meaningful” for him to do.
Not a problem, really. I always got along well with these boys because I enjoyed them and felt true sympathy for the variety of unfair situations that had placed them in this group.
At this time, I knew nothing about how to teach reading, but I knew that literacy was a big issue at this school.
That day, I had two students at once. Red-headed Blake’s mother had left the family and now his single dad was raising him and his brother alone.
Second grader Dean was sent to me for pushing in line and was struggling through his own emotional issues.
Neither were emotionally impaired–quite the contrary. They were having a natural human reaction to stress and loss. However, this wasn’t the ideal situation to try and share my enthusiasm for reading.
I was trying to get Blake to sound out words in a book but he was having no part of it. The more he resisted, the more I pushed, until Dean turned to me and said, “Mr. Fletcher, you’re torturing him.”
I vividly remember stuttering and stammering a bit in my own defense, but I was caught. The feeling of shame and disappointment in myself was pretty harsh.
I had to admit that I knew nothing about the psychology of reading. Sure, I knew how to read. But I had no idea how to teach it to Blake.
That night I went to the store, bought a few books and started my journey. Later I’ll tell you how I discovered a way to introduce children to reading and how you, as parents, grandparents, teachers and friends, can do it too. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime!
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