Literacies Circle: Removing Shame

Schools are good at conveying that reading is important, but we forget that reading is also about pleasure, knowledge, and empowerment. Everyone, from the layperson to literacy researchers, fully agree that developing phonemic awareness and learning phonics are integral toward learning to read. However, dictating how children are to think or not think about their literacies—their metacognitive and metalinguistic awareness—

such as in the following snippet of our state’s proposed dyslexia bills

is quite reminiscent of Orwellian thoughtcrimes. There should be no shame for our children or bigger humans to use a range of cross-checking strategies to reflect on decoding and comprehension. 

There should be no shame in using pictures and illustrations to support decoding.

There should be no shame in reading ahead to use the meaning of a passage to figure out an unknown word. In fact, many authors will define a word by stating the word, inserting a comma, and then defining it and/or providing an example of it. This is by far not guessing, but an attempt to understand, to learn, and to even sort out phonemes and morphemes, such as distinguishing between ethology, etymology, etiology, or entomology.

There should be no shame in miscuing words and catching oneself.

There should be no shame in mispronouncing words because of an accent, deafness, stuttering, a speech impairment…or simply because of reading faster than the rate of speech.

There should be no shame in coming across unfamiliar words and seeking different ways to learn about them.

There should be no shame in scanning material for an overview…or to just get the gist of things.

There should be no shame in flipping back a page or two to double-check something…or in order to answer a specific comprehension question.

There should be no shame in sneaking a peek in the last few pages to see how the story ended.

There should be no shame in reading a book that is too hard or too easy. Or one that has no words.

There should be no shame in devouring graphic novels or enjoying that juicy romance.

There should be no shame for choosing and abandoning a book for another one.

There should be no shame in reading assigned works and saying I don’t get it. Not everyone knows about jibes and broad reaches.

There should be no shame in writing in the margins or taking pictures of quotes with a cell phone.

There should be no shame in reading on the floor, in the bathtub, or under the covers.

There should be no shame in reading aloud to oneself when alone. Or refusing to read aloud at all to anyone else.

There should be no shame in reading to the family dog, cat, or goldfish.

There should be no shame in reading aloud to delightfully act out the story instead of reading words exactly.

There should be no shame in reading with or without a finger…or reading line by line with or without a bookmark.

There should be no shame in reading a digital form of a book.

There should be no shame in listening to an audio book.

There should be no shame in wanting to read the same book over and over again.

There should be no shame in reading an entire series of books by the same author.

There should be no shame in reading one book or a dozen books at a time.

There should be no shame in reflecting and critiquing what one really thinks about a book.

Bountiful and restorative conversations can embrace and build upon the multiple skills, strategies, and tools for encountering the diversity and challenges of the literacies all around us. Absolutely none of these attempts or practices should be considered as harmful or shameful.

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