Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Becoming a Mentor: We Should Bother

to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937)
When my children were born I eagerly ran to the bookstore. I wanted to share with them the literature of my youth. With great enthusiasm, I scoured the shelves looking for the books I remembered so well. In the process, I discovered so many more; so many I'll look forward to reading to grand-children some day.
My intention, born from nostalgia was two-fold:
to introduce them to themes I thought were important,
and also,
to get them to love reading; to really love reading.
My intention in getting them to love reading was also two-fold;
because it brings great joy to the reader,
and second,
because it breeds a love of learning;
a yearning to make connections.

On one of my Barnes and Noble excursions, I came across a book entitled, Really Reading. This little book really got me thinking--about the process of learning to read--the mechanics, and the subtleties, and now,as the parent of three High school and Middle School age Children, I realize that
what it takes to become a really good reader, is also what it takes to become a really good mentor.

But What is a Good Reader? And How does one become one? And what is a good Mentor, and Why should we bother?

The process begins with the mechanics:

The very basics of sounding out words, and also recognizing words by sight.

These skills can only be gained by practice.
The mechanics of becoming a good mentor consist of:
-sounding out, or having conversations with those to whom you might be of service.
-recognizing, by observing, with the intention to find, opportunities to share what we know, with those who are developing, who could use the voice of experience, and especially encouragement to develop skills which may still be dormant.
These skills can only be gained by practice.
Next comes fluency:
Fluency is the ability to read orally with accuracy, speed, and vocal expression.
With practice, a good mentor can accurately identify and address, those who might benefit from their abilities and experience, and express it accordingly--that is, in a nurturing way.
A critical aspect of reading development is word understanding. As the child learns to read, he will begin decoding unfamiliar words, and as his fluency develops, his vocabulary must also build, in order to be ready for the next important step which is comprehension.
A good mentor has a good vocabulary indeed, for he must be able to express himself with clarity and of course care, in order to gently guide.


Now that the mechanics are under our belt, the question is, Do we understand what we've read? or are we just on auto pilot.

Comprehension is defined by Webster as
1. a. the act or action of grasping with the intellect: understanding
b. knowledge gained by comprehending,
c. the capacity for understanding fully.
Comprehension develops actively when the reader is now encouraged to have an
intentional awareness of what he has read.
A good mentor must have an understanding of his mentor, be able to really comprehend him. He must, that is be empathic. With empathy, the mentor and the mentored thrive and move forward, with knowing.

Without Vocabulary acquisition, fluency, the mechanics of sounding out, and recognizing words by sight, Comprehension is impossible. Mentoring, on the other hand is very possible. Each one of us has the potential to become a mentor, and each one of us is a mentor, if but only through our observed actions.

A mentor is a trusted friend, counselor and teacher, and usually a more experienced person.
A mentor introduces important themes, and encourages a yearning for growth, which ultimately instills a joyous love of learning, and an ability to make connections, so that they may become dedicated to becoming indeed a mentor to themselves, and possibly then to others.
And that's why we should bother.

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