What My Students Taught Me About Reading

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I used to think a child would love reading if I could just find the right book and place it in my library.

I used to think a child would love reading if I could just give them the time to read and the space to do it in.

I used to think a child would love reading if I was passionate about it and always shared what I was reading.

I used to think a  lot of things.

Now I know that we cannot just have the right books in our library but they must be placed into the hands of children.  Sometimes repeatedly.  Sometimes by more than one person.  Sometimes cleverly disguised with new covers or exciting book trailers.  And sometimes we must accept that our favorite book will never be a favorite book of a certain child and so we must place another, and another, and another into their hands.  Sometimes we must get them first to trust us to even open up their hands or hearts to us.  Sometimes a book does that for us.

Now I know that it is not just about giving children time or space to read but choice in how to read and what to read.  Even if that means that they hate the books we suggest, even if that means that they try on 10 books before settling, or 20, or 30.   Even if that means that they sit on their desk to read, or lie under a table, or hide behind the door, or fling themselves on the floor.  Reading does not have to happen at a desk, in a chair or sitting up.  It just has to happen.

Now I know it is not just about me being a passionate reader but also giving students time to share their passion.  It is about them finding their voice as readers and discovering the joy of having another child pick up a suggested book.  About having a conversation about a book with someone who loved it as much as you, cried as much as you, yelled as much as you.  I can share all I want but it is the students that need to discover their inner passion.  They must have time to talk about books.  They must have ways to share their favorites, their worst,  their “I can’t wait to reads!”  They must feel that their opinion matters, that their passion shapes our library.  They must feel that reading time is sacred and not just another chore.  They must know that reading matters and not just because the curriculum says so but because it shapes us as human beings.

I used to think reading was about going through books as fast as possible just so I could show how many I read.  Now I know it is about savoring every one, experiencing it, and letting it change me.  I try to give that moment to my students too.  They taught me to slow down, to give more reading time, to talk more about the books I read.  They taught me what it means to be a passionate reader by being passionate themselves, and for that I am forever grateful.

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8 thoughts on “What My Students Taught Me About Reading

  1. Mary Beth says:

    I agree with you totally! I have learned so very much from my students and even more from my own children! I would like nothing better than a cozy spot and a book to read for hours and hours. My three boys don’t have that same approach to reading. In fact, each one of them has a unique way finding what and when they want to read. As their Mom, it is juggling act to meet all their needs as readers and try to instill a love for reading as pleasurable thing, and not just a homework assignment.

    And that is the same for my students. No two students approach their Book Box in the same way. Each of them deserves time to explore, chat, share, listen, look and just plain spend time surrounded by books. With all the pressure on teachers and students to do more with less time, I feel like I am constantly fighting for time to read with kids and for kids to have quiet time to read themselves. For me, it’s the saddest part of the “shifts” in education that have come down the pike.

    But I am certainly not going to stop trying…

  2. Aaron Davis says:

    After a long and exhausting day, it was so refreshing to read your post. Great reflection. I was screaming yes (in my head) with each one of your statements.
    I think that there is a little bit of magic involved in instigating and activating that passion of reading, with the most important ingredient being persistence. I may accept that you may not get into the book you are reading right now, but I will not accept that you will never like reading.

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks a lot for this beautiful and meaningful post. I agree with you. Knowing that out there some children can find a teacher like you makes me feel hopeful. Hugs from a fellow teacher form Italy.

  4. Karen McGrath says:

    As a second grade teacher I had my students pick a book to read to their peers each week. I was always surprised at their choices(especially because they wouldn’t have been my choices) So I too, learned the very valuable lesson that we are all different and our reading choices can be just as diverse! As you pointed out, it’s the passion about reading that matters and nurturing it! The other 2nd graders who were being read to by there peers, absolutely loved the books that I would have never chosen! Thanks for a great post! Happy reading! Karen McGrath

  5. […] Blogging Through The Fourth Dimension, a blog I’ve use a couple of other times as well. This post is about what her students taught her about reading books. She had always thought that if she could […]

  6. […] Pernille Ripp has a must-read post about what her students taught her about reading and teaching reading. […]

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