Monday, 18 August 2014

Who remembers the QC?

No, I am not talking about a person here - not one of those eminent Queen's Counsel who can charge thousands of dollars a day in a court of law.
No, this was the Qualifying Certificate. It was the exam the Senior Cat had to do in order to go on to secondary school. If he and his fellow students did well enough they were eligible to go to High School. If they did not do that well they went to a Technical High School. If they failed they repeated what was then called Grade 7. It was a bit like the 11+ in England. I have written about it elsewhere on this blog.
It was very different from the NAPLAN tests now done in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The tests cover reading, writing, spelling and maths.
The results for those tests, done in May this year, are apparently now available. Much has been made of the fact in this morning's paper. The state I live in is bottom of the class.
There will be excuses. There will be complaints. There will be calls for the tests to be scrapped. There will be demands from parents and others to know "why are our students failing?"
It will be, with one exception, a fuss about nothing. That exception is reading - and even there the test is not important.
What is important is that at least some, and perhaps many, children are reading much less than they could. It is not just "screen time" which takes away from reading time either.
One of the things the Whirlwind complains about if she has to spend the weekend at school is that there is not enough time to read. The boarders are organised into doing things. They are kept occupied - or encouraged to occupy themselves.  The Whirlwind's idea of a good Saturday night is reading a book she wants to read. Her school's idea is organising a debate or a film, games or some other activity that keeps everyone occupied. I can understand that - and so can she - but it takes away reading time.
The same is true of many parents. They will organise something - or suggest television or another activity. "Just reading" is somehow seen as less acceptable.
Children need to read. It doesn't have to be fiction. Not all children do want to read fiction - although I still believe that the right book at the right time will cause almost any child to read fiction.
We recently had some major work done to the heating and cooling system for this house. The electrician's apprentice has severe dyslexia - so severe that he was eventually given books on tape as if he was blind.
He has been inside our house before. He likes to look at the books.
They look "interesting" according to him. He admitted to me that he is intensely frustrated by not being able to read the printed word easily. It took him an entire year to read the first sixty pages of "The Hobbit". "I really, really wanted to read it," he told me.
He ended up listening to it. He will listen to other books as well but he knows it is not "reading" in the same way. It doesn't give him quick access to the print world.
"If people can read then they should," he told me, "Books are so full of ideas even the ones that are not the find-out sort of books."
And that is why I would be concerned if the children in this state are failing to not just to reach the minimum standard in reading but exceeding in it. Books are full of ideas.


Jan said...

At least the apprentice has been exposed to the ideas in books when he listens..

I do not like the silly little readers which are sent home with Infant children for homework. Firstly, they turn reading from a delight to a homework chore.

Secondly, they are poorly written with limited vocabulary and a dearth of stimulating ideas. No room for the imagination in them. I am not surprised that many parents hate superviing their child's reading of these, nor am I surprised that a child does not like them.

Books of all types should be available and a trip to the local library should be something to look forward to. School libraries should not place restrictions on what a child can borrow. Children will find their own level and their own interests. Reading flourishes then.

My eldest took encyclopaedias to bed to read at night. His teachers were amazed at his general knowledge and his vocabulary when he was in just the lowest classes in Infants.

I have to say, having good ideas and vocabulary did not always translate to common sense, I found him one night reading with a candle685 in bed!

catdownunder said...

True- although he had some interesting insights into the difference between listening to a book and reading a book.
As a teacher I know the theory behind those books but I agree with you. They can stifle the desire to read.