Turning PagesSeptember 27, 2022

My son, Eli, turned one last week, and, as the saying goes, the nights have sometimes seemed long, but the year has gone by in a blink of an eye. What I love about the past year is how Eli has changed the way he plays with his toys and looks at things, staring at images that he’s seen many times before, but lately it seems new and different. This is especially true with his board book collection (yes, he seems to already have a library of board books). He’s been turning the pages of these books for some time now, as most babies seem to do. However more recently, he’s been stopping at each turn, glancing back and forth at each page laid out in front of him, perhaps seeing the eyes of an illustrated animal for the first time. The books are usually right side up and Eli usually turns the pages from the front of the book to the back, although he also seems just as engaged when the book is upside down. Whatever the case, these are early print concepts developing, and, over time, it’ll look more and more like “reading”. The idea of reading (that is, reading at the word level and actually comprehending text) is a complex activity, but here I am seeing “reading” happen at a basic level. Even if someone might argue that this is not reading, since Eli isn’t really making meaning from the text, there’s still a connection being made at some level about how this board book, with words and illustrations, is telling him something.

I’ve been interested in early reading for some time now, as a kindergarten teacher, through my graduate work, and especially in my research over the past several years talking to teachers about how they teach reading and where they find information and resources to contribute to and even enrich their literacy programs. I’ve always found that the teachers I talk to, regardless of how they integrate reading instruction into their practice, teach with passion, ensuring that they are supporting all their students by looking for information that is research-informed and directly related to their students’ needs. I’ve been especially interested in how online and multimedia resources can provide teachers with an avenue of professional learning, and whether such resources can actually enhance a teacher’s knowledge about reading and literacy development. Over the past year, with Eli’s first trip around the sun and the continued discussion about how to define reading and best teach reading in the early primary years, at least in Ontario, I’ve become interested in how reading is taught in alternative early years programs. Since many early years approaches have been adapted from different languages and countries, I’ve also become interested in what teaching reading looks like across these contexts. Do all Montessori teachers, for instance, perceive reading and literacy similarly, regardless of their language? Throughout the next several months, as I continue to watch Eli’s new language and literacy behaviours, I’ll be visiting different schools and talking to teachers across the globe about their perceptions of reading and literacy practices. My aim is to highlight the amazing work that teachers continue to do with their students in the classroom (whatever the classroom might look like). I’ll also be looking at patterns, if any, across programmatic and geographic contexts. For any interested reader, I’ll keep a log of my encounters and travels here. I’ll also recount any new observations of Eli’s “reading” behaviours, and, of course, any books that he recommends.

Turning Pages–September 27, 2022