She snuggles in next to me, holds up the book really high and looks at me expectantly, “Ready, mom?” I nod and off we go, Thea trying to figure out what happened to Daniel Tiger and why he got so upset with his friends. Every word is a thought. Every word is work. She uses expression yet chops her way through. Some words she completely misses, her legs moving, her body wiggling, and guesses fly out of her mouth because her eyes are not looking at the words but instead at the pictures.
Thea could be given a lot of labels. The teacher voice in my head has a running monologue as she reads checking off the skills she still needs to conquer. She is a reader that is behind where she should be after her first year in school according to the charts. She is a kid that fights for every step forward she makes. And yet, to me she is so much more. She is a kid who doesn’t give up even when she gets frustrated. She is a kid that knows that she needs body breaks when her brain is processing words. She is a kid that thrives on the routine of reading every night, not because I told her so, but because she wants to show me she can. And she loves to read.
She is not a struggling reader.
She is not a failing reader.
She is a reader. Period. A kid that is developing their skills at her pace in the way her body and her brain needs. She is a kid that loves to read even though it can be a struggle. Yet that very struggle cannot define her. That label cannot possibly sum up everything she is when it comes to reading. So why do we continue to call our students struggling readers whenever they are working hard? Is that really the message we want to send? That reading is a struggle to them? Or should we re-frame our conversation and instead empower them with their titles? How about calling them developing readers? Growing readers? How about just readers?
Our students do not come to school identifying themselves as struggling in anything but they leave thinking it. We give them the language that they use to identify themselves, so how will your students be identified? You decide…
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.