I haven’t been reading much. My current book “Clockwork Princess” by Cassandra Clare mocks me from my bedside table. It is not that I don’t want to read, I just don’t want to read that book right now. I don’t want to give it up either. And so every night, I find myself in a reading conundrum, not sure how I should proceed. You would think as a 34 year old this would not happen, yet I realized if it is happening to me, then imagine how often it happens to our students. How often do they get caught in a reading block? How often do they need a break? So I share with you my 5 reading truths and how to work with them…
Reading Truth 1: Even kids who love to read need a break.
This year I had some of my most voracious readers yet. One girl read a new book every night. Yet, as the year winded down I noticed that her bookmark stayed in the same book, day after day. I asked her and she told me that her brain was tired. That the book was amazing but that right now she just needed to read very little of it. I nodded and then handed her some picture books to read. Sometimes all we need is just a little change to get back at it.
Reading Truth 2: A hatred for reading will spread like a virus.
I expected to have kids who hated reading at the beginning of the year, in fact, it is something we discussed quite openly in our “Why Reading Sucks” lesson. As the year progressed, fewer kids felt this way or at the very least expressed it and I thought my work was done. Then something changed. Whether it was spring fever, running out of great books, or something outside of the classroom, one boy told me he hated reading. The next day someone else did as well and slowly I saw the same hatred from the beginning of the year creep in and take hold. What did I do? I challenged it at its core, reflecting with each child why their attitude had changed and handing them each a new and exciting book to restart their interest. More often than not, it was more that they had no great books to read and were thus forcing themselves through a book, rather than actually hating reading.
Reading Truth 3: If you don’t read, some won’t either.
I have written about this before and it is something I am adamant about, if you want readers, you must read yourself. Kids see through you in a minute if you are not reading something yourself. As one boy told me this year, “If reading is so good to do then why doesn’t this teacher read?” He had a point. When I don’t read, my students take notice because I don’t have books to recommend to them, I am not excitedly sharing something, I am not sharing my reading life. If we are teaching students to be lifelong readers, then we better be modeling it ourselves, even if it means reading a book in very small chunks. (This by the way applies to really any subject matter in my opinion).
Reading Truth 4: We have to find time to discuss reading if we want it to be important.
Actions speak louder than words, so if we ask students to read outside of the classroom, then we have to find time to discuss that reading within the classroom. Much like a child will quickly figure out if assigned homework is not checked and then not do it, reading requirements need to lead to something more than just saying you have read on a reading log.
Reading Truth 5: It is okay if reading is fun.
I get so caught up in reading gains and comprehension skills, reflections, and discussions. While my students grew immensely in their reading discussion skills, I had to make it a priority that reading needed to be fun. We have so much to do in class. We are constantly pushing ourselves, our thinking, and working with a text. But once in a while, it is okay to sit back and just listen. Once in a while we don’t need to deep discuss, close read, or even reflect while we listen. We need to get sucked in, laugh out loud, and wonder what will happen next.
Reading is our little bit of magic. What our brains do when we read well is quite incredible. Don’t let these things get in the way of the magic. Don’t let our focus on becoming great readers stop us from that exact purpose. Reading should be passion-filled, first and foremost. So think about it, are you creating a passion-filled reading classroom?
I am a passionate (female) 7th 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 Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.