Hamster Teaches Literacy --A True Story

Jim Giles

Literacy has become a priority in Ontario schools: uninterrupted literacy blocks are now part of the daily timetable in many primary and junior classrooms. But for literacy to genuinely flourish, parents and educators must provide the conditions and support that sustain children’s interests and needs.

Literacy experts emphasize the  importance  of meaningful  experiences  to  support  children’s reading  and  writing.  David  Booth,  Canada’s internationally recognized literacy guru, states:  “childrenneed to read and write frequently for auth entic reasons as they come to realize that being an efficientreader and an effective writecontributes to their communication success and personal satisfactions,and gives them control ov er their lives.1″

Educator and academic, Alfie Kohn concurs: “ Children are people who have lives and interests outsideof school, who walk into the classroom with their own perspectives, points of view, wayof makingsense of the world and formulating meaning.  What we teach and how we teach must ta ke account ofthese realities.2″

Booth  further  emphasizes  the  importance of  authentic  needs and  interests, especially in encouraging  reluctant  male  readers.  In   EveHockey Players Read  Boys, Literacy and Learning,



Two elementary students laughing while reading a book

In 2011, the advocacy group People for Education published a startling report called Reading for Joy. The study, which is downloadable at peopleforeducation.ca, revealed that there has been a dramatic decline in students who report that they like to read.

Graphic of tablet with 1st place medal

Does the word gamification make you cringe? That’s okay. I get it. It sounds like an annoying made-up word.