I saw him reading that bright green book, I snuck a closer look and recognized the cover. “Guinness Book of World Records” was perched on his lap. After independent reading, I asked him if he had any chapter books to read too. I don’t mind Guinness but I love when students have a little bit of everything to read. He told me no, and when I asked him why not, he said, “Reading is not my thing.”
This student has been taught every day in reading strategies. How to comprehend, how to figure out themes, how to connect and draw meaningful conclusions. He has diligently written post-its showing some thoughts, he has spoken to others about the books. He has discussed goals with his teacher. And yet, he doesn’t love reading, he doesn’t even like it, nor does he feel he needs to.
So then what does it matter if a student can tell me about theme? What does it matter if a student can give me text evidence? If there is no love of reading then what do we need reading strategies for? Sure, students may be equipped to move on in school and figure out the texts given to them. But the child who does not like reading will not reach for books to enlighten them, or books that will challenge them. They will not reach for books to transport them. Books will not be a needed companion. They will be okay with reading not being their thing and continue on that path. And I am not okay with that.
Who cares about reading strategies and teaching them if we are not uncovering at least a like of books? If we are not helping our students discover a book that they want to read, not because I told them to but because they want, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or audio? Who cares about theme if a child thinks reading is torture? Who cares about connections when the most important one; the child connecting to the book, is missing?
Yes, we should teach students to be better readers but we should also help them uncover a love of books if it is missing. We should be professing our own love of books and urging them to find the right one that may convince them that reading bears value. Every year this should be our biggest focus, not the reading strategies, they come after.
I am a passionate (female) 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” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.