|FOR THE LOVE OF READING|
My six-year old daughter just had the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful local theater production of Willy Wonka Jr. She was an Oompa Loompa.
Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the story that this production is based on) was an amazingly creative and quirky writer. His stories defy the imagination. Yet, he is able to take fantastic situations and make us believe them and want to be a part of them. We can imagine how the characters feel. We can imagine what it might be like to join Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory. To be an Oompa Loompa. We bring our own imagination to the story and we make the whole crazy story meaningful. We can make meaning from something amazingly fantastic and unreal.
As a longtime teacher of reading, the words “make meaning” have come out of my mouth more times than I even realize. For those of you who are not teachers, this phrase essentially means that reading has to make sense. Reading is all about making sense. Even when the story is comes purely from the imagination of a well-loved writer like Roald Dahl.
Making meaning is something we do all day long from the moment we are able to comprehend our world as small, small children. We don’t just start as readers. We begin as young thinkers.
This behavior is very human, very important to our social development as we learn to think deeply about the people in our world. Peter Johnston, of Opening Minds, refers to one aspect of this ability as social imagination. I love this because the word imagination goes so nicely with play.
Children play to learn how to learn and how to imagine. Imagining what others are thinking is exactly what play is all about. Dressing up like Mommy helps children to become Mommy, to think like Mommy, to use their social imagination to be Mommy. Dressing up like an Oompa Loompa helps children imagine they are a part of Willy’s fantastic chocolate factory. They can think like one of the characters. It’s pure imagination.
Children make meaning in giant ways even as small, small people. They use play and their imagination to make meaning. Eventually they use this kind of thinking to make meaning in the books that they hear, the books that they read. Reading cannot be truly taught in the absence of meaning. Reading is all about meaning.
The letters and words just get us there. To the meaning. Through imagination.
And the experiences with play, with imagining what other people think, eventually can help us think deeply about the books that we read. About the characters and situations that draw us in. Like Willy, a chocolate factory, and the very imaginary and incredibly fun Oompa Loompas.
We can teach reading in meaningful ways. Fantastic, unreal ways. Children can use the amazing thinking that comes so naturally to think deeply about all kinds of text. We can help them do this. With joy. And, sometimes, with a chocolate factory.
We can do it together. Thanks, Roald Dahl.
10/16/2022 11:53:45 am
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I have been lucky enough to have wonderful life experiences in the world of literacy education. I love to learn and talk about learning. Join me. Let's learn together.