Iona discusses the importance of being able to read as Warwick Say goodbye to the Right to Read programme.
I don’t remember learning to read yet it is probable one of the biggest achievements conquered. We use it every day, for work, for pleasure, just to get around. Bus stops. Coffee shops. In the library. Dare I say, you are using it right now.
Children get so little credit for their capabilities to pick up humongous concepts. If you or I had not learnt language in the preschool years, there is no chance we would be able to learn one now. This is a well-known concept called the critical period which denotes that language is best learnt in the years between 2-5. Language opens a lot of doors – friends, education, demands, opinions and the ability to verbalise ourselves. It is what distinguishes us from other species. It allows us to evolve fast as we can build on previous ideas. We can share concepts. And most importantly, through the medium of written words, we can pass our knowledge through generations. But to use these, we must be able to read.
The Right to Read programme is a national programme set up across the U.K. to offer children support with their reading. It involves older pupils in secondary schools and universities going to the school and sitting with the child one-on-one to listen and help them with their book. Many children do not get the opportunity to read at home due to busy lives and little time, yet this is the most important factor in gaining the skill. Shared reading is not only about picking up the ability of connecting written letters with heard sounds, but also about exploring an unknown world together. It is incredible how symbols on a page can become vast landscapes to escape to with characters we can learn ways of life from.
In my first year at Warwick I took part in the Right to Read project, and although admittedly having to drag myself out of bed for a school-time start each Wednesday was a shock to the system, it was a privilege to be able to watch the children over the weeks as they progressed to becoming confident little readers, eager to move onto the next colour level. I remember one boy I worked with each week absolutely bursting with joy when I read his name out in class to come over and read. The same little boy who weeks before would avoid going near a book at all costs. The ability to read will have changed his life. Unfortunately, Warwick’s time in the Right to Read programme has come to an end. For this reason, it seemed a suitable time to pause for a moment and appreciate the skill that allows us to be in this space in the library. Someone, or many people, throughout our early years in school sat with us and listened, likely after a great deal of complaint on our behalf, as we stumbled over words they had heard many a time before. They listened as we practiced and soon words became sentences and sentences paragraphs and then reading required no more than looking at the words on the page and it would all come together.
I don’t remember learning to read but boy am I grateful someone sat down and taught me.
What are your earliest memories of reading? Did you have a favourite book as a child? Let us know your memories in the comments below, by tweeting us @warwicklibrary or by emailing us at email@example.com
Header image: Victoria Borodinova.