Why does reading turn into a torment? What do parents need to know when they want to raise their children to be successful people? Andrey Beskov, the Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Researcher at Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University, answers these questions in Novye Izvestia:
A new school year has begun. And although adults try to arrange its beginning as a holiday, in fact it is always stress and excitement - how will this year be, what will it bring with it? Everyone - both parents and teachers, and, of course, students, want their studies to bring maximum returns with a minimum of effort. But how can this be achieved?
Modern pedagogy has established itself in the opinion that the key factor for achieving success in studies is the formation of developed reading abilities. What these abilities are and how successfully our school is coping with their formation - Andrey Beskov understood these issues, having studied publications on this topic in reputable scientific journals.
All of us with the edge of an ear somewhere heard that in the modern world (in Russia, for sure) the need of people to read is decreasing. People read less today and not so readily than before - several decades ago. As a rule, it is customary to complain that young people prefer gadgets to books. In general, this seems to be the truth, although it is not the whole truth. The structure of reading, as well as genre preferences, change for different categories of the population - and this is a normal process that has happened before. But it is precisely young people - schoolchildren and students who, willy-nilly, have to read a lot, because the learning process is still mainly tied to reading.
However, reading is different from reading. You can read "out of hand", stammering and poorly understanding the meaning of what you have read, or you can read easily and with pleasure, "swallowing" books, textbooks and articles as if it were your favorite dessert. It is quite obvious that each of us would prefer to be able to read in this way - easily and naturally. And if we ourselves have not learned how to read, then this ability should be taught to our children, because the conclusions of modern teachers are inexorable - those children who read well learn educational material better. In addition, there is evidence that teens who love to read and read a lot have higher quality of life scores than their non-reading peers. But how to make children read well and how to understand whether modern children read well in general? To answer these questions, I will turn to science and statistics.
Let's start, as the ancient Romans said, from the egg ("ab ovo"). But if they meant the beginning of the meal, which began with eggs and ended with dessert - apples, then I mean ... an egg. Yes, yes, a variety of factors affect whether your child will read well, including his physiological development - even intrauterine. For example , it is known that twin children, in comparison with ordinary children, are generally somewhat worse at mastering speech skills, especially for those children who were born second. The formation of reading skills is influenced by the length of time the child is in the womb and his weight at birth. Simply put, if a newborn has a high Apgar score - that is, he was born healthy and corresponding to the developmental norms, then he has every chance of becoming a good reader.
But that's in theory. It was only the famous Tarzan, the hero of the books of E. Burroughs, who could learn to read in a way unknown to science - by looking at picture books. In life, everything is not so, and the examples of Mowgli children, raised by animals, described in the scientific literature, completely eliminate any illusions about natural growing up and learning. A reader, like a person, is not born, but becomes. This is convincingly shown by studies of educators and psychologists. You need to constantly deal with children. In particular, it was found that in families where parents (and especially mothers, who usually bear the main burden of upbringing in the first years of a child's life) have a higher education, children by the time they enter school acquire more developed reading skills than their peers whose parents do not have higher education.
However, if you do not have a higher education, you do not need to lose heart - it is not parental education itself that affects children, but the general atmosphere in the family, a positive attitude towards reading, the willingness of parents to read with their children. who attend kindergarten for a long time (3 years or more) have a significantly higher level of literacy compared to children who did not attend kindergarten or who attended it for a short time. For children of more educated parents, no such connection has been established. Thus, kindergartens in our country perform an important function of leveling the level of reading abilities of children from different families. One may ask, how is this possible, if in kindergartens they start preparing for school in the last year before graduation? What does it have to do with going to kindergarten for 3 years or more, if children at this age are still not taught to read? The answer is pretty simple. As you know , to make it easier for a child to learn to read well, he must learn to distinguish well and reproduce the sounds of his native language and have a sufficiently large vocabulary. Also important are qualities such as attentiveness, the ability to self-control. Regular visits to the kindergarten, which involves communication of children with each other and developmental activities of educators with children, should ensure that the necessary skills are imparted.
In elementary school, all children in one way or another acquire reading skills, which is what some parents hope for, who believe that teaching - including teaching to read - is the function of the school, not the parents. Alas, they risk bitterly regretting their carelessness. Parents, who in the first years of a child's life "did not soar" with his development, have to make intense efforts in terms of helping the child in elementary school, while more conscious parents at this time can already relax a little, watching the success of their children. For many families, during this period, reading turns into a real torment, a reason for nervous breakdowns for both children and their parents. A completely unambiguous conclusion emerges - parents do not need to wait until the child goes to school to start reading with him. The later parents start doing this, the more difficult it is to eliminate gaps in the development of children - alas, their children continue to lag behind in the level of development of reading skills, and this entails a lag in the speed of assimilation of educational material - in any case, that which they are invited to draw from textbooks.
But the primary school was left behind. Everyone learned to read. What happens next? We can learn about this from the materials of large-scale international studies, in which the reading skills of primary school graduates (PIRLS) and 15-year-olds (PISA) are assessed. The results of Russian fourth-graders in PIRLS are usually not just good - they are excellent! Our children have repeatedly surpassed their peers from other countries, becoming the leaders of the international ranking - this was the case in 2006 and in 2016. Here, for clarity, I will cite the results of 2016, indicating the integral score of reading literacy on a 1000-point scale.
The ranking reflects the results of schoolchildren from 50 countries of the world. The top 10 lines of the ranking are occupied by the Russian Federation (581), Singapore (576), Hong Kong (569), Ireland (567), Finland (566), Poland (565), Northern Ireland (565), Norway (559), Taiwan (559) ), England (559). The bottom 10 lines of the ranking are occupied by the UAE (450), Bahrain (446), Qatar (442), Saudi Arabia (430), Iran (428), Oman (418), Kuwait (393), Morocco (358), Egypt (330) , South Africa (320).
Considering that, in the opinion of international experts, the level of reading literacy in the country predicts economic growth better than other educational achievements, we all need to rejoice and wait for a bright future, when clever grown-up students will finally lead Russia to the number of the most developed countries in the world.
But the reasons for joy invariably end when we get acquainted with the results of a study of the reading skills of Russian adolescents, who over and over again do not shine in comparison with students from other countries of the world, finding themselves in the final ranking now in the third, then in the fourth, or even in the fifth ten. It is worth explaining that not all of us are measured by the technique known from our own school years (first of all, the speed) of reading, but the skills associated with finding information in the text, processing it and the ability to generalize the data obtained, making our own conclusions based on them. PIRLS assesses reading literacy at the end of primary school, at the transition from teaching the reading process to using reading as one of the main means of further education. PISA assesses adolescent reading literacy as they transition from using reading as a teaching tool to using reading as a means of orientation in real life. That is, both tests assess the readiness of schoolchildren for the next period of their life - to some extent, this is a test for "adulthood".
To understand where the "gag" occurs that prevents our generally well-developed fourth-graders from becoming equally remarkably developed boys and girls, a group of Russian scientists conducted a study that found a strange situation. It turned out that during the transition from primary school to the mainstream, the development of reading skills is suspended. As a result, sixth graders read no better than fourth graders. Moreover, the ability to extract information from text is even worse for many sixth graders than for fourth graders. The reason for this is not completely clear to the researchers. Either with the psychology of children of this age (however, in this case, the same problems should be inherent in schoolchildren from other countries, which seems to be not noted in the scientific literature), or the matter is in the textbooks that our children study.
Modern textbooks are a separate topic. Suffice it to say that the authors of the textbook "Literary Reading" for the 2nd grade, approved by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Education, confuse the words "canopy" (for example, canopy of trees) and "canopy" (for example, in a peasant hut), obviously, poorly understanding the meaning of Pushkin's poem "Autumn", which they suggest to reflect on our children. But an active reader reads not only textbooks, but also good books, which, it would seem, should automatically contribute to the further improvement of reading skills ... So maybe it's not about textbooks?
Since the reasons for the described situation are not entirely clear, it is not clear what needs to be done to improve it. Corresponding studies only show that, apparently, the root of all troubles is that our students are good at interpreting information gleaned from the text, but they are worse at finding this very information formulated in an explicit form. Figuratively speaking, they read well between periods, but sometimes they pay insufficient attention to the lines themselves. Remembering the monologues of Mikhail Zadornov, who glorified the Russian "smart", we can say that "smart" really works well for our children, but attentiveness and pedantry are not their strong point yet. Or maybe not ours?..
But let's not philosophize about the national Russian character. So far, a few simple things are clear. Good reading skills increase your child's chances of becoming a successful person as they get older (although they certainly don't guarantee this). In order for these skills to develop safely, it is advisable to take proper care of the child's health at the planning stage, not to mention taking care of his normal development in the first years of life. Developing reading skills is not about learning letters and trying to put them into words. It is necessary to develop the child's speech in every possible way, enrich his vocabulary, teach him to communicate. And tired of the hassle with young children, you should console yourself with the thought that by giving them maximum attention now, you will save yourself a lot of time and nerves later, when reading should become the main instrument of learning for the child.