Why Reading Sucks and It’s Ok to Talk About It

I try to help my students be passionate readers.  To be the type of reader that sneaks reading in whenever they can, that bring books with them wherever they go, to be the kind of reader that cannot wait to read the next book they have on their list.  I try to be a role model for this but to do this I have realized that we must discuss why reading sucks.

I ask my students their thoughts on reading as part of one of our very first mini lessons.  While many of them share such wonderful things about their love of reading, there is usually one brave enough that finally just says that reading is just not their thing.  This year was no different when a child told me that “Reading sucks” and then waited for my reaction.  I am not sure what the child expected, but instead of dismissing their notion as crazy, I created a poster asking them to list why reading sucks.   As one child blurted out, “I don’t think a teacher has ever asked me that.”

And it’s true, I  tend to not ask this question, but since it presented itself, I figured it had to be dealt with head on.  The kids were cautious at first, perhaps they felt I was trying to trick them, and then they quickly raised their  hands and we created the poster shown here.

photo 3

Those are valid reasons why reading may not be the best thing for a child.  Some children hate sitting still, others find it boring, time consuming, hate that they are forced to read certain books or at a certain time, perhaps they feel pressured, perhaps they feel they are a bad reader.  What it all adds up to is a miserable reading experience.  And that is what we have to fight.

In the end I thanked the kids for their honesty, I then asked them for their solutions, and at first they didn’t quite have one.  Then one child raised their hand and said, “Can we pick our own books?”  “Yes.”  “Do we have to read a certain amount of minutes and log it?” “No,” “I said, I expect you to read every night and you only log it in here.”  “Do we have to finish every book we start?”  “No.”  With each question and answer, relief seemed to spread throughout the room.  Perhaps reading would not suck as much as it had in the past, perhaps they would not hate it this year.  Perhaps….and that is all I need.  The seed that reading may not suck after all.

So if we don’t ask the question and face this reading demon, then we can’t have the conversations that we need to have with these specific kids.  Yes, most students will tell us that reading is amazing whether they believe it or not.  I hail the kids that have the strength to tell me how they really feel.  How else will I ever change their minds?

 

I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

 

34 thoughts on “Why Reading Sucks and It’s Ok to Talk About It

  1. heidihutchison September 14, 2013 / 7:22 am

    I cannot tell you how much I love reading your blog posts! I am going to have this conversation with my kids next week. Dealing with reality is always the first step in changing something. Lol so simple, but so elusive!

  2. Erin Quinn September 14, 2013 / 10:09 am

    Thank you Pernille! Monday morning mini lesson: check!

  3. Erin @ Miss Lifesaver September 14, 2013 / 10:29 am

    I love this! As reading teachers, we should not ignore our students when they tell us they hate to read. Instead of challenging their opinions, we should welcome them and help them find ways to solve the barriers. Awesome idea!!!!

  4. jarhartz September 14, 2013 / 10:37 am

    Thank you for acknowledging the elephant in the room. For many, maybe the majority of kids, reading sucks. It’s our job to make it less sucky, open up the possibilities of what it can be. Everyone grows at their own rate, we nurture it!

  5. Functional Slop September 14, 2013 / 11:24 am

    In creating a safe environment to validate their feelings (without lowering your expectations) it sounds like you have accomplished something rare in the classroom: respect which can lead to trust. That’s not an easy assignment. Congratulations!

    • heidihutchison September 15, 2013 / 3:27 pm

      I am wondering if you could expand upon what you were surprised about. Perhaps my brain is on “slow Sunday” mode but I am curious…

  6. Denise Rawding (@DeniseRawding) September 14, 2013 / 6:52 pm

    Great points! I wish more teachers would do this with their classes, especially as students get older. As you pointed out, it’s important to listen and acknowledge the student’s viewpoints, but just as important is looking for a solution together. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  7. Kenya September 14, 2013 / 7:57 pm

    I wish I had had a teacher like you! I have never enjoyed reading. But, because I am a teacher, I almost had to hide that fact! Despite that fact, I have been able to motivate students to be life-long readers.

  8. slewisyoung September 14, 2013 / 8:14 pm

    Wow what a powerful lesson. I LOVE how you just went with it. Honestly it’s a lesson your students will never forget!

  9. Becky Bair September 14, 2013 / 8:31 pm

    I spent this past week doing reading interviews with my kids to help me get to understand who they are as readers, and many of my kids expressed the same kinds of feelings. Already at 9 and 10 they are so trained to think that reading comes along with worksheets and bubble tests. Many of their reasons were similar to the poster your students created, and many of them are finding it hard to believe that I’m going to let them pick their own books. The only thing I asked is that, in return, they promised to try and keep an open mind about reading and give me the chance to show them that it really doesn’t suck.

  10. ssedro September 15, 2013 / 1:24 am

    Beautiful. Honest. A lesson that is not in the Columbia Teacher’s College materials, but should be.

  11. pbogush September 15, 2013 / 5:29 pm

    My daughters have stopped wanting to eat their vegetables. So we decided to make them each keep a log of what vegetables they eat, when they eat them, and how much they eat. They didn’t fill out their logs. So we made a new rule that said one of the parents had to sign off on the log after eating the vegetables. There was still a lot of resistance. We decided that what we were doing was silly. So we scrapped the log and made them stop mid-bite to reflect on the flavor, texture, and temperature of the vegetables. Didn’t work. We tried making them stop and make self-to-vegetable connections. Didn’t work. It was obvious we needed some new vegetables that they haven’t tried before…they resisted but we made them eat their entire helping because you can’t just decided if you like something after the first bite, right?

    They do eat all of their vegetables at some meals, and there is only one thing those meals have in common. They prepare them. They decide what to cook and how. Sometimes they may choose corn for a few too many days, and sometimes they may put lots of cheese on them, and sometimes they even choose to experiment with a new vegetable.

    Imagine if we took your process and applied it to other things we make kids do in school…or life.

  12. heidihutchison September 16, 2013 / 2:52 pm

    Ok, so I just did this with my class and it was awesome! I had our librarian come up and write what kids were saying on the whiteboard and their reasons kind of fell into categories. One big category was “We had to do it!” Another category was “Sleep-it makes me tired.” And the last was “Authors’ Style.” I wish I could paste the picture in and show it to you all! I will put it in my blog: http://www.friendsofthefifthdimension.com
    Thanks so much for keeping us real!

  13. Kay McGriff (@kaymcgriff) October 7, 2013 / 12:38 pm

    I love this! Now the question is am I brave enough to have this honest conversation with my 7th graders. The Monday after fall break is our next library day, and it seems like a perfect time.

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