Nov. 12, 2014
“All fall. Fall of the wall.” Thus began my love affair with reading. I’m not sure exactly how old I was, but I remember sitting in my room with Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop” in my lap and suddenly understanding what the words on the page meant. My parents and older sisters had been reading to me for years, but all of a sudden, I got it—I could read.
I became a voracious reader. I tore through every Dr. Seuss book on the shelf. I wore out pages in Little Golden books. I read the back of cereal boxes while I ate breakfast and was soon reading well beyond my age. The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Encyclopedia Brown became my close friends. Judy Blume guided me through adolescence. Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder showed me what life in earlier times was like.
In school I did extra book reports and rushed through assignments so I could read during free time. In the summer, I begged to go to the library as often as I asked to go swimming. Even going camping meant biking to the store to get comic books or a new novel. I honestly don’t remember when reading wasn’t a huge part of my life. Escaping into the world of books has always been something I treasure.
Even when school got harder and there was less free time for reading, I still always had something I was reading on the side for fun. I grew very thankful for my reading skills as classes got more complicated. Being able to read something and understand it is the basic cornerstone for learning and success.
I was thrilled when my daughter’s preschool teacher told me that during playtime my daughter used plastic straws to spell “hat” and then repeated the word to the teacher. She was only three years old at the time and I knew I had a reader on my hands. She tore through books like I had and soon we were fighting over who got the latest Harry Potter book first. Now that she’s grown, we still share books with each other, no matter how busy our lives get.
How different would my life be if I couldn’t read? It wouldn’t even be remotely the same. Literacy opens doors and provides opportunities—there is no question about that. I can’t imagine not being able to read. Yet, unfortunately, that’s a real problem for people all over the world and here in the United States. Tackling the problem requires a variety of solutions and different approaches. Teaching reading can be a multifaceted challenge. Teaching teachers who teach reading is just as complex.
Teaching teachers is something we happen to know a lot about here at Michigan State. "U.S. News and World Report" has ranked MSU's elementary and secondary education programs No. 1 in the nation for 20 consecutive years.
One of the reasons we’re so good is the quality of our faculty. Patricia Edwards, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education, is a perfect example. She’s devoted her career to exploring issues of literacy, particularly in African American communities. She has developed two nationally acclaimed family literacy programs and received countless awards and honors for her work. She does research, teaches, writes books, gives presentations and guides graduates students. She considers it “a privilege and an honor to be a teacher and a researcher…” and sees education as “a valuable possession, as a beacon of hope and as a means to personal freedom.” Read her FACULTY VOICE: Building Learning Communities, to learn more about this fascinating woman and how her childhood in the segregated South influenced her profession.
Raven Jones Stanbrough is one of the graduate students who works with Edwards. She studies curriculum, instruction and teacher education and is a recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award for urban education engagement. Watch the video in the STUDENT VIEW: Up for Debate, to see how she is poised to make a difference in the world of education.
If you’re reading this, you’re lucky. Not because I think I’m such a great writer or anything, but just because you can read. You can look at a jumble of letters and punctuation and have it make sense. I’m guessing it’s as natural as breathing at this point. But it isn’t for everyone. There are still many people in this world that need that “All fall. Fall of the wall” moment. Spartans like Edwards and Stanbrough are committed to making them happen.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz