From my last post about Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, I left off with a question: if I am reading this book to my daughters (or any other book), I wondered about how much I point out certain ideas or concepts so as to deliberately build their background knowledge.
While on Twitter, I discovered Mem Fox’s Ten Read-Aloud Commandments for parents. Although the ‘commandments’ are geared towards parents of young children, elements of the list are applicable to reading aloud to teenage students, I should imagine
For reading to my girls at home, Fox’s Commandment #9 states:
“Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.”
From this commandment, I think I take that it is my job to simply to expose them to a lot of ideas and words and characters and stories with animation and enthusiasm and positivity, and if they ask for clarification about something organically, then I can explain or elucidate.
But if they don’t ask, I infer that Fox is saying don’t make the reading aloud about learning; instead make it about enjoying reading for the sake of enjoying reading.
So, then, if my girls just listen to stories for the sake of listening to stories, how is their background knowledge being built indirectly?
In a different article (Building and activating students’ background knowledge: It’s what they already know that counts), Fisher and Frey go on to suggest how wide reading indirectly builds background knowledge:
“Reading is an excellent, indirect way to build background knowledge. Through books, readers meet people they otherwise would never have met, visit places and times that they would not have otherwise been able to visit, and interact with ideas that shape their understanding of the world.”
In Deeper Reading, Kelly Gallagher quotes David Sousa:
“The more branches I grow, the easier it will be to add new ones.” (34)
Gallagher also notes:
“…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading.” (26)
If this is true, then hopefully, when faced with challenging reading, my daughters may have the story of Bartholomew and the Oobleck bubble to the surface.