I have been spending little time in official reading conferences so far this year. These reading conversations that are the foundation of how my readers grow are far and few in between. But it is not from being forgotten, it is because of how many students have needed help finding a book.
We start every class with 10 minutes of glorious independent reading. As students read, the quiet settles over them, and I observe, ready to confer, but also ready to help out. This year I have noticed just how many kids are clearly not into their book, whose eyes shift restlessly from book to page, who are still on the same book they picked up on September 2nd. So I ask them, “Do you like your book?” and without fail they answer, “It’s ok…”
Only ok. Not great, not amazing, but ok. A 6 out of 10 at most. They are content with a mediocre book because then at least it looks like they are reading. It looks like they are following the guidelines set forth and perhaps I, the teacher, will leave them alone. Yet this is so far from ok. Reading only “ok” books is not what will make reading better for our kids. Reading only ok books will not inspire further reading, nor will it change their minds that reading is actually worthwhile. In this instance being ok is not ok.
So we book shop together, immediately, for this is a reading crisis that deserves urgency. We discuss when the last time was that they read a book they really loved (sometimes never) and we pull book after book after book off of the shelves so that the reading experience they will embark on is as far from ok as we can get it.
I could wait, of course, see them muddle through the pages and perhaps finish a book in a few weeks. Glad to have one read. I could hold back and tell them to book shop by themselves, let them explore the shelves and hopefully find something worthy of their investment. Yet, the problem with the “ok” book lovers is that if they stay on this path, with no help from others, they will remain ok until they are not. They will remain ok until they finally do give up fully and reading is no longer something they are willing to even attempt.
So when we have kids in our rooms that do not like reading, we must be urgent in our reading approach. We must talk up reading in such a way that there simply is no way around it. We must emphasize every day that reading in here matters and that you should only be reading great books. That you should not be satisfied until you find a really good book. That we will support the abandonment of books until a really great book is discovered because in here reading is meant to be more than ok. In here, we should all be trying to find our new favorite book, not just settle for whatever we grabbed when the teacher told us to find a book.
I am currently working on a new literacy book. 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. The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. 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.