Hearing Our Language
If you have not yet had a chance to read with our students, you are missing more than you might imagine, but still not as much as they are.
While learning a language phonetically and understanding it grammatically has numerous advantages, it is hearing it spoken that cements it for most of us. If you are skeptical, I would encourage you to first read Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find and then listen to O’Connor read her own work online. People will talk endlessly about how she is a good representation of the Southern this or that, but not until you hear her do you realize just how Southern she is. The same could be said of Kurt Vonnegut reading Breakfast of Champions. If neither of these authors is to your liking, listen to J.R.R. Tolkien read the Song of Beren and Luthien. It is enchanting and listening to these authors makes us question our pronunciation, the fluidity of our speech, and the tempo and enunciation of what we read. When we read aloud, we encounter our language anew, and the same is true for our students. They need to hear our voices and have the language they will inherit stirred to life.
Each morning we convene, our students in the elementary gather together with a volunteer to read to and to be read by. Both the act of reading and the act of listening make for good practice – for them and us. But, such a system relies upon numerous individuals giving up thirty minutes each morning, and we are experiencing a dearth of volunteers to keep up this process by which our students can make such strides in their literacy.
It was recently related to me that if we want for anyone to do anything for us; if we would like to make an appeal, we should never tell them that we are in need. Instead, it ought to be presented as an opportunity. Well, I would be a perfect liar if I told you we were not in need or that our students would not benefit by your volunteerism. Please join us. It will make their lives better, and I suspect it will do yours some good too.