Friday, May 24, 2013

Building Literacy--Through Music, Menus, and Marketing Materials

Building literacy is certainly part of our efforts in afterschool, but it is not always easy to engage young people in this pursuit.  Several years ago I saw a young man reading a novel during a lunch recess.  I commented that he must love reading, to which he quickly responded with an emphatic, “NO!”  Needless to say this response did not connect to what I was seeing.  So I inquired a little more about his book and what it was about.  He excitedly told me how much he enjoyed it and what was happening with the characters.  I then stated again, you must like to read, to which he responded, “Yes, but I don’t like reading because that’s what you do at the table with the teacher and it’s not fun at all.” 

What an eye-opener!  Is it possible that it isn’t the reading students don’t enjoy, it’s the fact that reading appears irrelevant.  The question becomes, how can we help youth to practice literacy and have them enjoy the process--the classic disguised learning question.  I would suggest that you consider the possibilities of music, menus and marketing materials.
Lyrics to favorite songs can be easily downloaded by Googling lyrics and including the name of the song.  Certainly you will read through to be sure that the nuance of the language (as well as the specific words used) are appropriate and then have the youth practice reading the lyrics for accuracy and expression.  Also think about the discussion you could have around the words.  Consider these lines from:

                        "The Climb"

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it.”
Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking.
But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high...

Beyond lyrics, consider using menus, especially ones from exotic restaurants, and then have the youth research the dishes and write descriptions and read them to one another.  Or select the marketing and recruitment materials from a college, concert, or camping experience, and have kids read and then share what they found out--following up with additional research and writing.  You can read many things in the world around you, and capturing student interest in these print-rich environments is easier than you think.  Promote literacy whenever you can.  Remember that reading is step one and thinking about what you’ve read and analyzing it is part two. 

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