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.
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.