I am reading a very interesting biography, That Mad Louisa. It is the story of Louisa Lawson, mother of our famous poet and writer, Henry. Louisa was a poet herself, and encouraged to her son to write, and fan his gift into flame. It was all the more important because of his disability-he became almost completely deaf by the age of 14, due to a fever he contracted as a child. This became a lifelong problem, which had started in the classroom, where the other children taunted him because of his strange way of speaking. However, he was able to lose himself in books, and develop a great talent-both with the help and encouragement of his mother and teachers.
How often do we not realise that a child within our contact may have a disability that is not always obvious? Struggling with reading, especially reading out loud can cause real issues for children-and reading difficulty causes problems with comprehension. Last year, I typed out a simple Easter play based on Jesus appearing to some of His followers after His resurrection. I intended to ask some children in my class to dress up as the 3 main characters and act the play out, script in hand. There were only a few short sentences for each child to read. They were eager to take part: hands quickly went up to offer themselves. What I hadn’t realised at the time was that by and large, they could barely read even the easy words I had written. I stood back and gently coaxed them when they hesitated, or were simply unable to pronounce the words.
A teacher and the school principal advised that the children were not getting help at home. Perhaps the parents aren’t readers themselves. I try to help by volunteering to help a class with their reading once a week. It doesn’t replace intense one-on-one assistance on a more regular basis, but hopefully I can do my bit. If they can immerse themselves in a good book, we can encourage their creativity and hopefully prepare them for the future.
One way that I like to gauge the reading level is to give the children a word search, or find-a-word. This displays how easily they can find the hidden words within the grid. I also like to give them a simple newsletter with spelling mistakes for them to find, as a way of helping them with their literacy. We should never underestimate the power of a good book to influence and shape young lives. After all, reading and writing is the most basic essential tool in life.