"How to get lost in a book" - A new teacher workshop

I was approached by the South African teacher union, Naptosa, to create a workshop on reading and children’s books for their members. This presented the perfect opportunity to weave together my passion for children’s literature, and getting people to understand the importance of reading for pleasure. In my mind began to form a landscape of children’s literature; I saw teachers as guides with the map of this landscape held firmly in their hands; the more familiar they became with this landscape, the more pathways and trails were available to the children in their classes as they set off across this exciting (and sometimes daunting) landscape. 

Where would these pathways lead? 

To adventure, definitely. To far away lands and distant planets. To the twists and turns of an exciting mystery, for sure. But without a doubt, I knew that the most important aspect of these pathways was to show children how to “get lost in a book”: that delicious, totally immerse experience where our story and the story of the characters becomes breathlessly close, where the real world recedes for a bit and we completely forget where we are.

Why is this important in the context of education? 

As we move further away from the magical experiences of early childhood reading (or perhaps we never experienced those at all), reading becomes functional – a tool for learning, a foothold for reaching a goal. It’s no wonder we lose our way and forget how to really get lost in a book. 

Last year, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka convened the Reading Panel in the wake of the PIRLS 2016 results that showed 78% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa could not read for meaning in any language. The aim of the Panel is to address this challenge by 2030. In this context of a reading crisis, it is vital to examine our ideas and conceptions around reading in order to contribute to the solution. To produce readers, we need more than just children who have mastered the basic mechanics of reading; we need children who want to read and who will willingly practice this skill.

How to get lost  in a book is a short workshop designed to equip teachers with a map of children’s literature that will help them navigate back into the world of children’s books and in doing so, help them become a better guide for the young readers in their classrooms.

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