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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why motivation?

When I talk with the parents of potential students, many of them want to know how I'm going to teach their preschooler to read. But teaching a preschooler how to read is not the mission of Literacy Launchpad. True, it is sometimes a happy by-product of what happens in class. But the core mission of Literacy Launchpad is to motivate and empower children to soar into reading.

What do I mean by motivate and empower? To motivate someone is to provide them with motivation, a need or desire to act. In this case, we're providing motivation to read, or to be read to. The empowerment part is where we strive to give them the pre-reading skills that have been shown to be necessary to learning to read (vocab, phonological awareness, narrative or sequencing skills, print awareness, letter knowledge, and motivation).

Literacy Launchpad gives children a weekly dose of fun with books (motivation), whilst teaching basic pre-reading skills that empowers them with what they need to learn how to read when they head into kindergarten.

As a child, though I was a good reader, I was not an avid reader and had a lack of motivation in that area. I love to read now. But looking back, I wish more of a motivation had been instilled in me earlier in life. And that's a big part of why I wanted to begin a program like Literacy Launchpad.

Recently though, I have seen the reason why motivation is so important really come alive for me. I have two school age children now that are eleven and eight years old. They have only been in our family for a little over a year now, and didn't have much (if any) schooling prior to coming to America. In fact, I would venture to say that they were never read to as children, and probably didn't even have much exposure to books. Now for some children that come from this kind of a background, this develops a healthy appetite and respect for books and knowledge. Once they have access to what they have long been denied, they gobble it up. But this is not the case for every child with this kind of history.

My older children are struggling to learn to read, and it appears that motivation is the biggest hindrance to their learning. They don't see the value in reading. They have never experienced the joy, or seen others experience the joy of books. They have made it this long without knowing how to read, so why learn now? Couple that with feelings of inferiority and shame when they see how far ahead other children their age are in reading, and you end up with a big ole case of I-Don't-Wanna.

When I came home from a recent vacation with my hubby, my children were totally befuddled by photos of me lounging with books and reading. They didn't understand why somebody would be reading while on vacation. I didn't understand this befuddlement, as they see me reading frequently at home; it is obviously something I enjoy doing. But they still seem to see it as something you only do if you have to. I had to explain that people love to spend time reading, especially on vacations, and that many other vacationers were reading as well (not just me). This is normal! People read because they want to read, because they enjoy it. This was news to them.

My children had no Literacy Launchpad in their preschool years. They had nobody reading and cuddling with them. They had nobody taking them to the library. They had no teachers sharing and talking about their favorite books with them. They didn't have a house full of books. They didn't see adults around them reading.

They now have all those things in spades. But their early childhood deprivation has led to a serious lack of current motivation. And a lack of motivation can make learning to read, an already challenging task for ELL children, nearly impossible.

So to all those parents that want their children learning to read in preschool: I understand that desire. I would love for my preschooler to start reading soon too. But you can be the best reader in the world, and if you don't want to do it, or you don't like to do it, or you don't understand why you do it, you won't. And often when we begin formal reading instructions with preschoolers (often in the form of ditto sheets, drills, and memorization), we make miss the fun and the joy, we make it something we want, instead of letting our kids want it, and we can unintentionally suck all the motivation right out of our kids. (Did you know Finland has one of the best education systems in the world and their children don't begin school till age 7? Many of them teach themselves to read at home by watching English language TV with Finnish subtitles - motivation!)

We continue to plug away at reading here in our home. But seeing my children's struggle has further affirmed me in my Literacy Launchpad mission. I can't change the past for my children, but I can be a part of changing their future, and I can continue equipping all my Literacy Launchpad students for a future full reading success!!

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