It’s January. In the perfect world all of my students would love reading by now. All of my students would bring their self-chosen book to class, eager to dive in, begging for more reading time. In a perfect world, every child would have a goal they were working toward, every child would be eager to book talk their books, to browse our library, to read outside of class. I don’t teach in the perfect world, I don’t think anyone does.
Instead, by now here in January, I have kids that still show up with no books. That still tell me they hate reading. That still would rather flip the pages and not actually read anything. I still have kids who don’t read outside of class, who have no goals, who would rather do everything they can to avoid having a reading check in with me. Not a lot, the numbers have dwindled, but they are still there, they are still prominent, and I still lose sleep over how to help them have a better relationship with reading (or writing, or speaking, or English, or even just school…)
We all have these kids in our classrooms, in our learning communities. These kids that seem to defy the odds of every well-meaning intention we may have. Who do not fall under our spell or the spell of a great book. Who actively resists not so much because they want to but because they feel they have to. And so our initial thoughts are often to tighten the reins. To tell them which book to read. To hand them a reading log so that you can see when don’t read. To tie in rewards to motivate or even consequences to punish. We create lesson plans with more structure, less choice, less freedom overall thinking that if we just force them into a reading experience, perhaps then it will click for them.
We must fight our urges when it comes to the regimented reading experiences. What these kids need is usually not less freedom, more force. What these kids need is not more to do when it comes to their reading. What these kids need is not the carefully crafted worksheet packet with its myriad of questions that will finally make them read the book.
What they need is patience. Repetition. Perseverance. I am not in a fight with these kids. I am not here to punish them into reading. I am not here to reward them into reading either. I am here to be the one that doesn’t give up, even if they have themselves. I am here to be the one that continues to put a pile of books in front of them and say “Try these…” I am the one that will repeat myself every day when I say, ‘Read…” and then walk away. Who will crouch down next to them and ask them how they feel and listen to their words, even if I have heard them a million times before.
We look to external systems and plans because they entice us with their short-term promises. We fall under the spell of programs, of removing choice from those who have not earned it, in an effort to get these kids there faster. Yet, what I have learned from my students is that every one is on a different path. That every child is on the journey and while their pace may be excruciatingly slow, they are still moving forward.
So our classroom is not perfect, and neither am I. I cannot force my students to read but I can create an ongoing opportunity where they might want to. And so that is what I will do, every day, up until the last day, hoping to reach every single one, even if I have not reached them yet.
I am currently working on a new literacy book. The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum. 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.