A friend recently commented that her son had his first day of Kindergarten and they tested his reading. (Right there, that makes me sad.) His mother asked how he did, and he said that he couldn’t really read the words, and that puzzled both of them because he knows quite a few words. Another friend was able to explain that the school was probably using the DIBELS Nonsense Word assessment, one where the children are tested in their fluency in reading words that don’t actually mean anything. In other words, they’re being tested on how well they can sound things out while completely ignoring meaning.
Yes, let’s get rid of those pesky words. They just complicate everything. This is why I am beginning to worry that libraries are beginning to go off-track where our mission is concerned. I think we have a vital role to play in getting “Every Child Ready to Read,” but it feels to me like too much of the emphasis in the discussion of storytimes now sounds an awful lot like the same things kids are being taught in school that passes for reading. I see our role as making sure children are exposed to great authors and great art, and to the stories that people have been passing along for generations as well as the amazing new books being created daily. When you do it right, when you pick books that are magical and find fingerplays and songs that match those books, and you include nursery rhymes and poetry, and you invite the children to predict what’s happening next in the story…those are all the same skills they will need to learn to read.
They are going to spend way too much of their school years focusing on the mechanics of reading. We can incorporate ABCs and the sounds of letters while not losing sight of the story. Am I all alone on this?