I was a reading a lot myself and I wondered why our relationship with reading became so different. There are, of course, many differences in my son’s growing up and schooling and mine, several factors that come into play, such as I was growing up on a small island, he in a city, I only had black and white TV that, he has a wealth of screen possibilities where television is the least central. All this obviously plays a big role. Still, another important element is that I always read to him as a child. I felt that he should know works like “Mio, my Mio,” “the brothers Lionheart,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and the like.
I loved to read when I was a child, the characters of literature entered my mental space, put my thoughts in order and gave me ideas, or fed my inner life with dreams and vision. My grandmother gave me censored (she had crossed over or ripped out what was inappropriate) kiosk novels, it didn’t matter, they represented a fictional world where I could be free. I didn’t have to be alone with my inner monologue, through the reading a dialogue with the outside world arose. It was good with this loneliness, sitting or lying alone with a book in my hands and feeling rich through the worlds that my imagination created in the face of the words. Teaching me to read was a necessity, it was to save me the troublesome time of childhood and youth and give me a pathway to life.
The school included learning by heart the poem Terje Vigen, German grammar and everything else that I didn’t realize that I one day would need. “Learning by heart” was often a collective event, where we repeated the teacher’s voice instrumentally and mechanically, yet a collective act, we said the words in a chorus. Old-fashioned and laid-off in a world today where you are a victim of individual facilitation.
At the end of last year, the results from the PISA test came with no surprising results regarding reading among boys. Not surprisingly because I have a son who sighed about not being able to read as fast as expected in school, and we who often visit a classroom see how boys “falls out”. My son had to get simple customized “boring” stories through school to practice reading. The content of these easy-to-read books that focused on reading as something instrumental didn’t make the situation any better. He ended up writing a story that I wrote down, then he read it. What kind of relationship is created with a text when what counts is the number of words one can read how fast?
What was missing for my son and which I had to replace by working with him at home were methods where he was given the opportunity to meet a text in different ways.
I am a mother, not an expert on reading, but because I know something about oral storytelling, I know something about the relationship between a text or a story and its recipient. I should not say that all teaching was like my son’s, but reading is important because it is so fundamental for so much in our society. It requires practice and good and varied methods for reading, I suppose. I personally believe that the collective is important for understanding a text. In a meeting between a reader and the text, the collective is present because it is a meeting between two voices. The collective could therefore also be a methodical approach, and by that I do not mean to read a text aloud in a classroom, but to have a collective working method.
In the oral storytelling study at Oslomet, we have taken this into our hearts. Here you work in groups and couples to understand a story and to get a relationship with the story you are going to convey. The memory is a good starting point to think about. You have the natural memory, your own experiences and you have the artificial memory – what you should learn to remember. Theories from both come from place-oriented thinking. To include a text can be to have a spatial attitude, it applies to both the physical landscape, but also a mental landscape, an inner world. There is no condition, but a collective helps to correct mistakes, to remember what one has forgotten. In approaching one can work with different ways of creating dialogues to become familiar with the text so that you understand the function of being able to read.
I imagine it must feel like an island of loneliness to sit there with a text you can’t decode into an experience or knowledge that will further develop you. One should not only read for the sake of information, reading should carry knowledge, and it is important to distinguish between these. Reading must be practiced, it is instrumental, but not only that. Reading must also be an experience, something that is experience-based. Therefore, I believe that there must be a varied method, preferably a collective approach so that reading provides a context and gives a sense of mastery.
It’s not about not getting bored, and the reasons one uses and the importance of being able to read are many and long. That is why it is so important that reading does not become the major antagonist of many students.