English teacher, actor offers tips and tricks for ‘I Love to Read Month’

. . . This article appeared in the February 7, 2018 issue of the Interlake Enterprise . . . By Teresa Carey

February is “I Love to Read Month,” but before your eyes glaze over, consider the following: The act of reading is so much more than processing words on a page. Some of the benefits include improved mental health, reduced stress, better sleep, improved imagination and brain functioning. Socially, reading can help build empathy and an appreciation for different cultures and ways of being. It can be a means of learning new skills, or of experiencing joy.

These are just a few positive effects which may come with reading says Rob Jantz, who teaches English with the Evergreen School Division. Jantz is also an amateur actor with the Gimli-based Aspire Theatre group so has special insight into the power of the written word.

“There is a crossover when it comes to acting and reading,” said Jantz. “I think it’s important at some point that kids can see themselves in the writing. If they don’t, they can develop a dislike of reading.”

“When I start reading Shakespeare, I put on my thickest Scottish accent and kilt and come out as Macbeth, waving a sword. I tell the class that someone has kidnapped the teacher, and I have come in his place.”

“Kids need a way inside the book,” Jantz said. “Getting the characters to jump off the page is one way. Drama can help with that.”

“I have a rule in my classroom: No one is allowed to read a book that they don’t like. That is counter productive. You have to get something into their hands that they like, and give them time to read—figure out what they like.”

When faced with a resistant reader, Jantz suggests figuring out the individual’s needs and what motivates them, and taking it from there.

“My daughter asks me to read with her, but what she’s saying is, “sit beside me,” Jantz said. “For some kids, it’s going to be about freedom or independence, or escaping small town Manitoba. For others, they want to feel competent, they want to have a sense of mastery.”

Jantz explained that some kids read for fun, and want books that will make them laugh. Others are motivated to read things they are told to not read. Others still, read in order to learn how to get things done, like how to fix a car.

“Sometimes kids say, “tell me a story,” not, “read me a story”. Kids like to know that things can go in so many directions. That’s what’s great about oral story telling.”

“Start with a story they know well, then totally go off track. It’s getting them to interact and shows there is an alternative. Go in a different direction. Veer off,” he suggested.

Jantz said parents can use the story telling as a means of telling children a story about the family’s history, making it another way to help them see themselves in the book.

As a parent who wants to engage a child in reading, dare to step out of your comfort zone.

“Even if you’re not that creative, I don’t think that kids will mind,” said Jantz. “Even if you think you can’t do an accent, do it anyway. Use body language. Kids are more likely to get inside a story. You have a safe audience inside your child.”

Then, after you have read a story to your child, “ask your kid to tell you a story. Say, “It’s your turn,” Jantz suggested.

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About Teresa

Teresa Carey is a ceramic artist, writer, photographer, journalist, publisher and nature lover. She lives in Manitoba's Interlake on a small acreage close to the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

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