I asked my students what made the biggest difference. I asked them what I should tell other educators as I ready myself for speaking this summer, honored to be invited to so many great states. I asked them what they wished every teacher would do, if they had to pick one thing, what would it be? Answer after answer, paper upon paper, they told me their one thing. And while I wasn’t surprised, I had not expected it to be so frequent. I had not expected it to show up on so many independently answered surveys. I had not expected it to be the ONE thing so many times.
Please tell them to give us time to read. Please allow us at least 10 minutes. Please tell us to read. Tell us to read only great books. Give us the time so we can fall back in love.
The time; that was the most important.
I have started almost every single day with a sacred 10 minutes of reading. Not enough, I know, but when I only get 45 minutes to teach English, it is more than 1/5 of our time. Every day I have expected all students to read and to read a good book. Every day I have expected students to fall into the pages that they chose and only come back up when the timer sounds and the rest of our class begins. I was scared of what we would lose in our curriculum by giving them so many minutes. I was scared that I would not be enough of a teacher by telling them that for those 10 minutes I would only interrupt a few of them every day, but mostly they would be left to read. I have read the research, of course, that speaks of the power of 10 minutes. As a teacher I believe in it, but to have it come straight from the very students it effects? That is powerful. That is something worth sharing.
When we hope for a reading miracle, when we hope for the one thing that will make a child a reader, it seems like this is it. That independent reading of self-chosen books is truly what will help all of our readers, whether dormant, resistant, or already in love, develop into readers who will leave our classrooms knowing that books have a place in their life.
So as we teach the older students, those students that might not have the luxury of longer literacy blocks. Who may not have the luxury of reading work shop. Who may not have the luxury of choice. I implore you to please take my students’ advice to heart; give them time to read, even if only for 10 minutes. Give them time to read a book they choose. Make it the expectation and not just once in a while, but every single day. I promise it will make the biggest difference. At least it will, according to my students.
If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books. While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher. Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.