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National Editorials & Columns

Use critical evaluation

Remember those wonderful teachers in your life? Some of them taught you about: separating facts from opinions, distinguishing misleading information, and interacting with what you read. 

Hopefully, you also learned to recognize bias, slant and emotional appeal. Because you read well and are literate, you form strong opinions and support them. Every teacher, both formal and informal, helped you develop your skills.

You may have fought learning vocabulary, sentence and paragraph construction and simple concepts, but many teachers encouraged you. You got where you are because of your own determination and the help of many along the way.

Think about how you got your story sense. Even those who don’t read avidly have an idea of “story sense”. If someone says, “Once upon a time…” you know you are about to hear a story. If you hear words like “first … now … then …” etc., you pull out your file of sequence.   

If you hear words like “compare … chronological …” you add organizational knowledge to your file. Those things didn’t just happen; they happened because you heard a story and later read a story. Knowledge at first is absorbed, then it is ready to use to extend your thinking.

Continual exposure to books develops children’s vocabulary and sense of story structure. Regular home story book times for as little as eight minutes a day, five times a week makes great literacy strides. Verbal interaction between adult and child and story will influence literacy development.

Stories help us understand what we are. The more we read, the more we grow in our thinking.

The important thing is not whether you remember the learning part, but if you got it and use it today. Reading for meaning involves three levels. What is exciting is if we haven’t gained the literal level, the inferential level, or the critical level even as an adult, there are many places to help us grow our reading skills.

Literacy means being comfortable in whatever you want or need to read. Survival literacy, reading signs, etc. is of course necessary for our safety, but the other levels of meaning are what lead to fun, knowledge and success.

Critical evaluation reading is like discovering and uncovering what is already there, then going beyond it. An inventor takes inventory of what is already there before going on to invent, so a reader expands knowledge by reading.

This week as we expand our reading from the Native American perspective, we discover elementary possibilities.

For K-3, some possibilities are: Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story. illustrated by Sam Sandoval. Confederated Salish and Kottenai Nations.  This story is about how animals brought fire to the Earth.  Jingle Dancer by Cyntiah Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu.  Jenna is Muscogee and Ojibway. With the help of her family, she is able to get enough tin jingles to make her dress sing and is able to participate for the first time in the jingle dance at an upcoming powwow. Sky Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, illustrated by Brian Deines is about two Ojibway sisters who bundle up and head outdoors for a walk on a cold night. They lie in the snow, looking up at the sky, gazing at the Sky Spirits, known to others as the Northern Lights.

For K-5: When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden. Lenni Lenape people are at the heart of this story narrated by a young girl. One side shows a family before contact with Europeans, while the facing page presents a contemporary family engaged in the same activity. This format and warm acrylic illustrations beautifully challenge the false notion that Indians vanished.  The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa ‘kashtyaa’tsi hiyaani: A Native American Tale in Keres and English by Simon J. Ortiz,  illustrated by Michael Lacapa. Translated by Victor Montejo.  Land, culture, and community join two Native brothers as characters in this story about the well-being and survival of a people. These five characters embody significant roles as the brothers set out on a difficult journey. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle,  illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges.  Set in the 1800s it is a story about the friendship between a Choctaw girl and an enslaved African boy.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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