A+ reading advice from an unconventional school teacher

Posted by Sinead McElhinney September  21, 2017
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If I asked, “Did you have a favourite teacher growing up?” I bet you’d have one teacher that immediately comes to mind; after all, most of us spend 14 years of our youth surrounded by educators. Teachers are an integral part of a child's emotional and intellectual development. They are our safety net, tutors, support systems, educators and so much more. Kobo went on the hunt to find a teacher that was anything but ordinary. Someone unconventional, who pushes the boundaries and encourages children to develop the skills that they need to pursue their wildest dreams, in and out of the classroom.

Kobo sat down with Allie Sutton, an Ontario Certified Teacher who received both her Bachelor of Education in the primary/junior division and Bachelors of Arts Honours in Global Development. She has taught overseas in Sweden, provided rigorous health education programs in Northern Canada and Guyana, and is now settled back in her home base of Toronto where she works with kids in several capacities to say the least.

Here is what Allie had to say about her journey as a teacher:

What inspired you to become a teacher (other than the awesome holidays)?

Truly, I became a teacher to have a lasting impact on a child's development. I want to create a community where children feel safe to explore and be themselves, take risks in their learning, develop positive self-esteem and feel real empathy for others. To have a true impact on student’s wellbeing, one must be there, each and every day, good days and bad, to grow with and support each individual in their academics and beyond.  

-Not your average teacher-3

How does reading and a child's development intersect?

I believe a little self-discovery and growth lies in each book we read.

Reading holds the potential to activate our imagination and expand our understanding of the world. It allows us to see a different perspective, to travel through time and to imagine surroundings we may not be able to immediately explore.

How can parents encourage reading?

A trip to the library! I hope I’m not the only one who finds libraries fun, and odds are, if you’re reading this, you do too. You can turn these trips in to outings or even rewards; play in the park, go for walk, stop for a treat. Surrounding kids with reading material, whether it is at home or at your local library. Remind kids that books are there for their enjoyment, their adventure, and their learning.

As kids develop new hobbies and interests, you can find books that support their learning and interests. My childhood bedroom could have been mistaken as a store for figure skating and dolphin books. Selecting materials that expand and build on interests wouldn’t hurt either.

And finally, lead by example. Let your kids see you enjoying books, podcasts, recipes and magazines. Maybe even share your favourites with them from when you were a similar age.

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Apart from books, how can one inspire their kids to read?

There are endless amounts of reading material the moment we step out the door. My personal favourite are restaurant menus, probably because we are often rewarded with food. Reading storefronts and street signs are also valuable, encouraging kids to make sense of signs to build visual literacy comprehension and street smarts.

Do handwritten letters qualify as untraditional reading material now? I had a couple of pen pals as a child, and while none were too long lasting, nothing was more exciting than receiving and reading a letter in the mail. I personally enjoyed reading novels that read like letters or diaries. This satisfied the nosey side of my personality without having to invade anyone’s privacy.

Switch on those subtitles when watching a TV show or movie.  Seeing the text along with the dialogue can improve recognition of sight words and assist in learning new words.

AllieSutton5Self-esteem and appreciation activity at David Rose Health Centre in Georgetown, Guyana

If your child is struggling with reading, how can parents help?

There is often pressure regarding what children should be reading at certain milestones. Ignore that status quo! Continue reading together, and reading what interests your child.

If your child is experiencing frustration with reading, reach out to their teacher for support. Parents and teachers can collaborate to find the best way to support the child’s learning, inside and outside the classroom.

What is one book you think every child should read?

The Harry Potter series. I may be biased though; this was my favourite growing up. That being said, there are reasons why J. K. Rowling’s series is a world famous best seller amongst all ages. I was first introduced to Harry Potter in grade four, when a teacher candidate began reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone aloud to my class. Her time in our class was done before we got to the ending. So I finished the rest of the book with my mom at home, reading it aloud before bed. I was hooked. There are tons of books out there to meet the needs of different kids at different stages.

So parents, encourage your kids to read what they want, and keep in mind, reading is a gift that keeps on giving.

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