The Essence of Reading

By Sadock Mahuku

Muli was a typical teenager when I met him, but there was something special about him. He was just curious. It pertained to everything, not just reading. He was insatiably curious about the world. He entered my classroom for the first time, and I can still see his eyes scouring the bookcases for something to read. I could see he was happy to be there.

As a science teacher with over three years of experience in secondary schools, I have a deep understanding of the challenges of teaching complex scientific concepts to students. I knew that I had to take the extra mile for my students, especially for Muli. Throughout my career, I have always believed that reading plays a crucial role in imparting knowledge to students and I have made it my mission to emphasize its importance in my lessons.

Muli seemed to have a passion for reading and participating in class but he was more interested in making friends than paying attention to my teachings. But I was determined to alter that, so I devoted a class period called “Prep” to explain the value of reading to Muli and my other students. To my astonishment, Muli had no idea what this class was about, so I had to design a lesson that would interest him and teach him the importance of reading.

I began by instilling in him a liking for reading short stories, which would be a soothing hobby after a long Biology lecture. I once handed him a book I knew he would adore. It had several short stories from Africa by Ian Gordon called “Looking for a Raid God” that explored complex themes in a way that I knew he would appreciate. Muli finished the book in just two weeks and came back to me eager to discuss it. He expressed surprise at how the stories caused him to think outside the box and changed his negative mindset towards reading. The book encouraged the boy’s interest in reading even more science books, such as Biology, which made him happier.

But then something happened. Muli ceased showing up for class, and when he did, he appeared disinterested. He simply shrugged and stated he was alright when I questioned him about what was wrong. Although I didn’t want to press him, I sensed that something wasn’t right.

One day Muli lingered after class. He paused briefly before saying, “I apologize for not being the same in class. You gave me a book, and I misplaced it. I was humiliated, and I was frightened to tell you about it.” Although I could feel his humiliation, I was aware that this was an opportunity for him to evolve. I assured him that everyone makes errors and that seeking assistance is ok. He was more willing to speak up in class, more self-assured after that day, and more eager to read. In his spare time, he began frequenting the library and even joined a reading club. I could see that he was thriving, and it was all because of his willingness to embrace his mistakes and to keep learning.

I emphasized how reading can influence Muli’s future and give him a solid basis for learning. I urged him to read outside of his textbooks and emphasized the advantages of reading, including the development of vocabulary, improvement of critical thinking abilities, and expansion of one’s worldview. Since reading exposes readers to a variety of cultures and lifestyles, reading broadly also aids in the development of empathy and emotional intelligence in kids.

I taught Muli several reading techniques like taking notes, summarizing, and underlining important passages to aid improve his memory. By fostering active involvement with the reading content, these tactics not only assist students in remembering information but also help them get ready for tests and assessments.

I persuaded him to start a reading group with some of his peers. The reading group fostered a love of reading in each of Muli’s students by allowing them to talk about and share opinions about the books and other materials they had read. Additionally, the club served as a forum for fruitful disagreements and conversations that let students broaden their horizons and learn from one another.

I was overjoyed to witness Muli’s good reaction to the reading. His grades and test results greatly improved, and he was better able to comprehend and remember the challenging scientific ideas I covered in class. Muli also developed a desire for learning as a result of his newly discovered love of reading, and he started taking part in class discussions and group projects. Muli excelled in his grade 12 examinations, and thanks to the Student Refugee Program (SRP), he was selected under this program and he will soon pursue his university studies in Canada.

Looking back on that experience, I realize that Muli taught me just as much as I taught him. I learned that true learning comes not just from success, but from failure and growth. I learned that teaching is about more than just imparting knowledge; it’s about cultivating a relationship with each student and supporting them through their challenges. And most of all, I learned that there is something truly magical about watching a student discover the joy of reading.

17 February, 2023