Question of the Week: Reading v. Memorizing

I love Blogistan, and I particularly love the state of KidLit in Blogistan.  As my straining blog reader can show you, there are plenty of wonderful, thoughtful discussions going on.

But there are moments when I feel like I’m late to the party or decided to wear purple when everyone else is wearing yellow.  These are the moments when I have a question that I would love to ask, but the question seems too small. These are not big ideas that are going to get a lot of discussion (like Summer Reading Lists) or encourage commentary (like paying for As).

And so it was last night. I was in the kitchen chopping celery as I listened to my daughter recite (with dramatic flare and various character voices) Finklehopper Frog for her Dad as part of their bedtime-story ritual. We started reading Finklehopper Frog to her when she was four. She’ll soon be turning seven and entering first grade. I have no doubt that her recitation is based on memorization, but she also tries to devour every syllable she can. But then a series of questions filled my head:

Does memorizing a book help a child with their reading? Will they move toward recognizing these words as part of their sight vocabulary?
Should we discourage dramatic readings and encourage her to sit with the book and practice reading with her “best pointing”?

They are the questions of a Mom who wants to make sure she’s helping her daughter become an independent reader.  Does it really take flashcards or ritual reading and rote practice with sight words? Or can it be something as subtle as creating a positive reading environment, encouraging a joy of books, building vocabulary based on stretching an existing interest in words, etc.

I don’t know the answers, but sure would love some thoughts.

3 responses to “Question of the Week: Reading v. Memorizing

  1. Terry,
    Very intriguing questions, and while I certainly don’t know the answers, I can tell you what my gut thinks. I think that if a child loves a book enough to memorize it and enthusiastically recite it using character voices, then you and your husband have done a fabulous job of raising a child who will be a lifelong reader. She’s memorized the book because she’s listened to you and your husband read it to her for the past three years, not because she was required to do it in school, which I think is a big mistake teachers often make. And because she knows every word in this book, it will give her the confidence to read more and help her develop a love for the written word. Those are my two cents…

    1. Thanks, Jill. I go back and forth on the best way to encourage reading. I don’t want to cross that line where reading isn’t fun anymore, but I also don’t want to be so complacent that she isn’t growing as a reader.

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