This is an opinion article toward an essay “How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading” by John Holt.
Glancing at the title, I was quite surprised that children in American or Western countries also hate reading. I thought only Indonesian children who feel so. An article from The Jakarta Post “Do young kids lack of reading culture?” by Evaries Rosita (01/22/2009) showed there is a myth which many people believe that Indonesia “does not have reading culture” but rather “oral culture”. Rosita then describes the actual factors of what she called “literacy crisis”. The factors are teaching of literacy at school, access to books, and poverty. From those three factors, teaching literacy at school is similar to what Holt discusses in his essay. Thus, I see that how children are taught reading is a common problem for some countries in the world.
In the essay, Holt talks about the issue from his perspective as a teacher. On the first paragraph he says he did not give students a chance to speak up their opinion about the book. I wanted to compare that case to what happened in my childhood but it was hard to catch back my memories from the past. But as far as I remember, my elementary and junior high school teachers always chose what students had to read for reading assignment. We were never given an opportunity to pick books we wanted. I think children are not supposed to be forced to read what the teacher wants because it will block their creativity. Children can be creative only for what they are interested and what they really like.
On paragraph two, the writer tells how he gave some vocabulary tests to students. Those tests are silly, according to Holt. I believe that students dislike vocabulary test if the reading text is in their first language. Sometimes it is difficult for children to define a word. They may be afraid to make mistakes or frustrated when they cannot find the meaning.
However, Holt once argued that students should find the meaning of words they do not know. Yet, his sister reminds him of his childhood which then makes him realize that he is wrong. I think I agree with his sister that when we were child, we never opened our dictionary to find words we did not know. For me, I usually asked my parents the meaning of words I did not know. I have an Indonesian dictionary at home, but I only used it when parents asked me to when they could not answer my questions. But when I was interested in books I read, I did not stop to find the meanings of difficult words. In addition, Paulo Friere suggests that acquiring literacy is when one reads and writes what he/she understands. Therefore, children are not supposed to be forced to know fully what they are reading. Letting them find what they want to know by themselves is important.
In one paragraph of the essay, Holt tells that reading aloud can cause humiliation because children do not know the words. I do not agree with the reason. Even when children know the words, they can still have mistakes. Students may feel nervous to read while others listen to them. It’s because in every classroom, there are always be naughty students, who like to make fun of their friends when making mistakes. In another paragraph, the writer says that many students enjoy reading aloud, but some of my friends in schools dislike it. Perhaps the reason is also humiliation. Then, I think that teachers should decrease the frequency of reading aloud activity or teachers should ask each student to read only a short sentence.
In the rest of paragraphs, I find three opinions which I agree with. First, when students are worried about spelling, it will slow down their writing; but when they are free to make mistakes, they can show their brightness and talents. It is similar to my own experience. I have to eliminate my fear and worries about making grammatical or other kinds of mistakes to create deep and full writing. Second, Holt states, “If the amount the students write is limited by what the teacher can find time to correct, or even to read, the students will not write nearly enough”. Yes, that is right. If students are given limitation, they cannot create their best. Children need to feel comfortable when doing something, including learning and working on a task. Any pressure that comes to them will make them feared and worried. Third, people “learn to write by writing, not by reading other people’s ideas about writing”. As children, the most effective way of learning is by practicing, not by reading or knowing the theory. Teachers’ feedback about writing should be given to more adult learners when they have had more time to practice writing.
Reading is a very good activity as a source of knowledge and information. Teachers are the most influential helpers and motivators for children at schools. I hope that there will be more people who concern about this issue.