In the Grand “Schema” of Things

Annie and KatieI wrote this five years ago, but I am reposting this in honor of  my beautiful sister, Thanksgiving, Family, and Reading.

My sister and I can read each other’s minds. Really. On Thanksgiving the table was set, the turkey was in the oven, the flowers were in place, and the doorbell was about to ring. I dialed her number in Mexico, put the phone to the CD player and hit ‘play.’ The music was the theme music to the Walton’s Thanksgiving. We squealed as she “heard” what I was feeling in a few bars of this wordless music:

This Thanksgiving is so special…

Matt is safely home from Iraq

He is fine and joyfully reunited with his wife and family.

Celia is ecstatic about having her daddy home.

You should see him with his baby! I wish you were here…

Remember that time?

I miss you.

No one else would have heard all of that that without explanation. This has nothing to do with paranormal experience, but it does have a lot to do with how reading comprehension works. She and I heard the same thing because of our uniquely shared experience. Our young lives were festooned with the same stories, books, and experiences. We have shared “schema.”

Schema comes from a Greek word that means map or plan. The map of our experience is what we bring to the table as readers. When we read we connect the story of our lives with the story set before us. New stories bring old stories to life. In Rm. 204, we are building community and a common canon as we move through carefully chosen children’s literature. In the alchemy of book and experience is reading comprehension.

“Oh, this reminds me of…” is the language of activated schema. It is the language of readers who think while they read. It’s the language of a literate community and it’s the language of connection.

You are strengthening your child’s reading comprehension with every book that you read with him or her and with every experience that you share. This happens as your child reads to younger siblings, too. See 100 Picture Books Every Child Should Know for some good suggestions for this.

The holidays are a great way to see schemata in action. Watch. When you are with your extended family you may feel like you can anticipate what each other is going to say, or recall a hilarious story with just one word. A shared glance might erupt into instant inside joke. This is the joy of family relationship – of being with people who carry the same map. It is the way that you too are a mind reader. And it has a lot to do with how you became a reader.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified third grade teacher and loves her work. She especially enjoys teaching children how to be enthusiastic readers, writers, and problem solvers. Every year, she hopes to inspire her students to be committed citizens who know they can make a difference in the world around them. When she is not teaching, Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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