Scholastic Desk Novels: Language Struggles Can Be Suffered in Younger Years
NEW YORK, NY — Thanks to a classroom education program spearheaded by the Humanities Division of the New York State Council of the Arts, a class of seventh grade students in Southeast Queens are immersed in the world of Shakespeare. But perhaps what’s most amazing about the bilingual program is that it isn’t what’s on the page or on the blackboard that matters most. Rather, it’s the visual images and imaginative play that allows the students to grasp Shakespeare’s text and philosophy, according to National Geographic, which profiled the program and its characters.
“The colors and shapes, the texture, the movement, what are you doing with it?” says Stuart Moyse, the tutor and University at Buffalo professor, who has helped guide students through the pages of the Bard’s works, such as “All the King’s Men” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “They’re starting to understand Shakespeare the playwright as much as Shakespeare the author.”
“For us, it’s literally understanding language in a new way,” adds Velma Peabody, whose daughter Jackie Chatterjee struggles with dyslexia, which creates a barrier to learning vocabulary, words and letters. Chatterjee is one of the 10 students involved in the program’s second year. Their work is displayed on the side walls of their classrooms as they read and write lessons on word origins and vocabulary.
They have found that all the listening and reading helps with comprehension, but the issue still remains to be how to present the information on the page.
“When you read and write, you’re going to have periods of interrupted speech, with little pauses as you read,” Peabody says. “For a student with dyslexia, it’s really important to introduce them to the text quickly so they can pick up on all the words as quickly as possible.”
The Humanities Project was inspired by the playwright’s own school of thought. Explains Peabody, “Shakespeare believed that one could read and understand reading in many different ways. He did it in different cultures and many ways. He did it in fluid writing. He did it with a lot of sound.”
“I’ve always been into spoken word,” adds Moyse. “I’ve always loved literature.”
“He thought the right way to read literature was through words, so for us, we’re listening to the words on the page, and some of it is through words,” Peabody says. “We’re reading it in a narrative way, in the same way Shakespeare said it. Then we’re learning the grammar and how to get the words out of the pages, and we’re using images from music and the visual arts. We’re bringing it all together with the language.”