Earlier today I listened to this NPR report about the end of the PBS children's program Reading Rainbow. And I'm not kidding when I tell you I was on the verge of tears.
Reading Rainbow will live on for a long time on DVD and I'm willing to bet there are copies of it at your local library right now. So I'm not so much upset that my children won't ever see Reading Rainbow again, I'm upset because of the shift in priorities that means Reading Rainbow isn't considered a good use of money any longer.
Simply put Reading Rainbow wasn't in the business of teaching the fundamentals of reading, it existed to help children learn to love reading - to take joy in reading books, and in thinking about books, and in making connections between what they read and the world around them - all of which are wonderful, important skills a reader should have. But they aren't phonics, and they aren't spelling...
For me, today, this strikes me as one small example of what I fear we're doing in our schools, which is to take the joy out of the equation. Standardized testing has put a great deal of fear and stress into the mix for children and teachers alike. While I know there are many wonderful schools and teachers who are still helping children love learning I think the current educational environment makes it more difficult for them to do so. We get so caught up in the results that we aren't taking enough time to be attentive to the process.
Of COURSE I think it is important for children to know how to read, I'm not denying that at all. I just think it is unfortunate when learning to read has to come at the expense of loving to read.
I'm aware that I'm grossly oversimplifying here. I wish I could articulate my point more efffectively.
Good-bye Reading Rainbow. I'll miss you.