“…I used to hate reading, it wasn’t cool, you know? But then when I heard you were my teacher, I was kinda excited because in your room it was ok to like reading.”
He speaks these words to me as if they are no big deal. To him they probably aren’t, just another conversation with his teacher. But in my heart and mind, these words mean everything. These words are why I am so passionate about books and about kids loving books.
I chose to finally unleash my passionate reader last year, thinking it might make a difference in my classroom. Little did I know just how much of a difference it would make. We are a reading classroom now. Not that we weren’t before, but not like this. Not this excited, not this engaged, not this immersed. Reading is cool in my room, something that matters to 5th graders. Reading is what we do.
When I pull out a new picture book, the kids cheer. They laugh, they comment, they re-read. When I bring in a pile of books, I have to step out of the way while my students grab the one they have to read now and others scramble to make signup sheets so they can read it next. All it took was for me to be passionate. All it took was for me to share that passion. (And of course, incredible books).
We wonder whether passion matters in education and in reading in particular. Do teachers really need to be readers themselves to teach reading? I am here to tell you it makes the biggest difference. Children who have long given up on school can find solace in books. Books build connections. Books build memories. When we are passionate readers ourselves we are actively sharing our lives, our connections, our feelings, with the kids that we hand books to. When we go all out in our love of reading, we show kids that it is okay to be a reader. That it is not something to be ashamed of. Not something to hide. But rather something that should be embraced and shouted from the rooftops.
So when students come to me and tell me reading sucks, or reading is uncool, I am not afraid. Nor am I upset. They just haven’t found the right book, they just haven’t laughed at the right read aloud. They haven’t experienced the magic of reading a picture book as a big kid. They just haven’t had that moment where everything disappears and all that matters is the book. And that’s ok, hopefully, this year will be the year. Hopefully this year they will find their passion. Because I am not giving up on them.
PS: Have you heard about the Global Read Aloud? The books for 2014 were just chosen and I promise this year will be amazing. Connect your students to the world through a shared read aloud, after all it only takes one book to connect the world.
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.