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December 23, 2013 | 02:25 PM
Who is Andy Gump? If you have ever been to Flatiron Park in Lake Geneva, you have seen the statue of Andy Gump. He was a celebrated comic strip character. What is a comic strip? Is this a ridiculous question?

How would you explain a comic strip to someone who had never seen one? We gain impressions of the world through the things that we see, touch, hear and experience. If you have never seen a comic strip, how can you possibly understand what it is?

Recently my school district has undertaken to improve literacy among our student body. Literacy is more than just reading words from a page. It is understanding the context in which the words are set, the purpose for which the words were written, the audience for whom the words were written and the impact the author expects the words to have. Literacy is a large concept. It cannot be taught in one class but must be approached again and again in all classes and in different ways.

Surprisingly one of the best literacy supports does not come from a text. It comes from real life experience. Children need to have knowledge that is based on learning they have had outside of the classroom. For example, a favorite children’s book is the “Polar Bear Express,” a book about a magical train. Imagine how much more “real” the book is to a child who has been on a train.

Introducing children, especially at an early age, to nature, to children’s museums, to special events helps those children create a database of knowledge that can be used later to understand written materials. The more references they have, the more they understand. The more they understand, the more successful they feel as readers. The more successful they are as readers, the stronger they are as students. Should I just say that taking your child to the circus guarantees a Harvard scholarship? Perhaps I should not.

There is a lot, though, that can be done to support literacy. What experiences do you offer for your own children? If children are not present in your home, what experiences could your employer or social group offer for children to “experience” something new? If nothing else, I now know that when I take my 2-year-old to the park, it is not all fun and games. I’m really teaching him to read.

Call is a teacher at Big Foot High School.

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