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WHY I LOVE READING
Blanche Podhajski, Ph.D.
I love literacy because of precious memories. My mother and big sister worked in beautiful stone buildings that housed the libraries in my home town. I remember them bringing home treasures of books they would read to me as a preschooler. That’s probably where my love of language began. Curious George, Madeline, and Babar became as close friends to me as Ruthie who lived down the street.
Learning to read when I entered Kindergarten couldn’t happen fast enough. But I was disappointed just reading sight words like run, jump, and Spot which characterized instruction in my educational era. I was so much more excited when Miss Avery taught us about “magic e” in first grade and then showed us how to rhyme by changing initial letter sounds. I was off and really reading!
I remember curling up into a chair a few years later with the entire Freddy the Pig series. I felt especially proud that I could decode the title of Freddy and the Ignormus. I enjoyed talking at the dinner table about what an “ignormus” might be.
I remember calling home from a phone booth in Boston during my sophomore year of college. “They want me to declare a major,” I told my mother. After two years of integrated liberal arts, it was not an unreasonable request. “You’ve always loved language,” she replied. And that’s how I began the journey to this remarkable profession of language and learning.
When I began teaching preschoolers at a hospital clinic, I was intrigued by why some of them had trouble making sounds correctly enough to be intelligible and why others spoke clear as a bell but in only one or two word phrases. I was even more mystified when we would “fix” these delays and then see the same children come back, speaking fine but with reading and spelling problems. What was going on in their young brains?
I feel privileged to have founded the Stern Center for Language and Learning in 1983 and to witness brain research hallmarking a reading revolution over these 30 years. We now have scientific evidence as to why some children learn to read easily and others struggle. Better yet, we know how to teach children so that we can actually see changes in brain activity! Doesn’t get better than that…
I know so many parents who have read to their children since they were in the womb and yet see sad faces on these same children who later hate reading - because they don’t know how. If your child has trouble with sounds, reading words, spelling, or understanding vocabulary and text, s/he may need more explicit teaching. Some good parent resources are A Child Becomes a Reader: Proven Ideas from Research for Parents, available free from the National Institute for Literacy www.nifl.gov and the book Straight Talk about Reading by Hall and Moats, available through most book stores.
Dr. Podhajski is the founder and president of the Stern Center for Language and Learning, www.sterncenter.org, a nonprofit literacy center for students, parents and teachers, in Williston, VT and West Lebanon, New Hampshire.