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A presentation describing a teachingmethodology developed by Judy Tennant that motivates reading by casting the child as the hero of the story
‘If a child can’t find himself on a page early on in life, he will go looking for himself in all the wrong places,’ Newbery-winning author Richard Peck once said. But what of the Asian child? The sheer diversity of cultures and languages in our region means most Asian children will struggle to find characters who look like themselves or share their culture within the pages of a book. Indeed, in many Asian countries, our children’s reading is dominated by Western literature, with heroes and settings far removed from their experiences. This has implications to a child’s self-esteem and identity. In addition, this may stand in the way of the future development of regional literature. Publishing, ultimately is a business, thus the majority language will always prevail to the possible detriment of literature in minority languages.
Judy Tennant’s Hero is Me approach methodology takes a popular text and via various techniques, enables children to retell a story with themselves as the characters in a big format book that they can read all together and re-read again and again. The effect is transformational – creating a positive and long-lasting engagement with books and reading:
• By putting the children into the book the story becomes personalised for each child. They see themselves as part of the story.
• Retelling a story in their image gives the children ownership of the book which creates a positive relationship with reading (teachers can extend the technique by using regional dialect)
• To create the book is a conceptual journey reinforcing all the developmental stages of an emergent reader. The child must engage with a book from all angles – reading it from left to right, top to bottom, and learning about page turns.
• Seeing themselves in the story encourages children to identify themselves with books and reading – triggering the innate belief “I can read”
• Seeing themselves in a book creates the sense of a book being part of their lives.
• Writing the book together creates a confidence in their own narrative – “My story matters” “It’s all about me”
• Being part of the creation of a book motivates and empowers the child to approach words with ease.
• Reading together empowers all levels of reading ability in the class.
• This approach leaves the fear of reading out because the act of creation leaves all children with a tremendous sense of achievement, feeling good about themselves and about books.
• Over and above everything else: the Hero is Me approach is both engaging, inclusive and fun.
Judy Tennant has been teaching for 30 years, working with special children for the past ten. She is Educational Development Director of Teachers Beyond Borders.