My love of reading never had to survive my childhood. My love of reading never had to survive well-meaning teachers, at least not when I was young. When I grew up, teachers weren’t really that bothered with what we read, or how much we read every night, just that we read. That we grew. That we became better. They didn’t ask us to keep logs, to record minutes, to stick post-it notes whenever we had a thought. They didn’t tell us which box to pick from or give us a label. Instead, they gave us a book, pointed to a chair, and they told us to read. Come up for air when you are done.
Some may shudder at the lack of instruction that I was put through as a young child, after all, where was all of the teaching? And yet within this brutally simplistic approach; read, read, read and then please read some more, was an immense amount of wisdom. Kids need time to read. Kids need choice. Kids need to be allowed to self-select books and then when they are done reading they should be asked to get another book. So if we hold these truths to be self-evident, I wonder, how has so much of our reading instruction gotten so far off track?
I think we teachers are part of the problem. I think our silence while we seethe inside at the new initiatives being dictated to us means that we are now complicit in the killing of the love of reading. I think we have sat idly by for too long as others have told us that students will love reading more if we limit them further and guide them more. We have held our tongue while practices have been marched into our classrooms disguised by words like research-based, rigorous, and common-core aligned. We have held our tight smiles as so called experts sold our districts more curriculum, more things to do, more interventions, more repetitions. We have stayed silent because we were afraid of how our words would be met, and I cannot blame any of us. Standing up and speaking out is terrifying, especially if you are speaking out against something within your own district. But we cannot afford to stay silent any more. With the onslaught of more levels, more logs, more things to do with what they read all in the name of deeper understanding, we have to speak up. Reading is about time to read first. Not all of the other things. And if we are sacrificing time to read to instead teach children more strategies,, then we are truly missing the point of what we we should be doing.
So I declare myself a reading warrior, and I believe you should as well. No more reading logs to check whether kids are reading. No more levels used to stop children from self-selecting books they actually want to read. No more timed standardized tests to check for comprehension. Being a fast reader does not mean you comprehend more. No more reading projects that have nothing to do with reading. No more reading packets to produce a grade that stops students from talking about books. No more rewards; prizes, stickers, lunches with the principal. We cannot measure a great reader by how many pages a school has read, so stop publishing it. Don’t publish your test scores. Don’t publish your AR levels. Publish instead how many children have fallen in love with a book. How many recommendations have been made from student to student. Publish how many books have needed to be replaced because of worn pages. Publish that, and be proud of the teachers that dare to speak up to protect the very thing we say we hold sacred.
Be a reading warrior, because for too long we have hoped that the decisions being made are always in the best interest of a child when we know at times they are not. No child is helped when we protest in silence, when we protest in the teacher lounge, or in our homes. We have to find the courage to speak up for the very students we serve. We have to practice being brave. We have to allow students to read books that they choose, to give them time to talk about their books rather than fill out a packet, and to allow them to self-monitor how much reading they are doing and then believing them when they tell us their truth. It is time for us to stand up and speak up. It is time to take back our reading instruction and truly make it about what the kids need and not what others tell us that they need. One voice can be a whisper or a protest, we make the choice when we decide to make a difference. Are you with me?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. 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. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.