She tells me, ” I just don’t like reading, Mrs. Ripp, and I am okay with that…”
I turn to her about to say the line we all have said, (can you say it with me?), but before I open my mouth, she interrupts…
“And please don’t tell me I just need to find the right book because that’s what they all say…” and with that, she walks away.
Her words follow me home and now two years later still ruminate. I was about to say it, I have said it, and I probably will say it again, and yet she is right, of course. How many times have we told a child that they “just” need to find that right book? How many times have we told a child that reading will make complete sense once they find the right book? As if there is one single book that they just need to find and then everything will fall into place. One that book is found then the magic of reading will all of a sudden unfold around them and they will all be readers after all?
How easy this is to say to a child when they tell us their reading truths and yet have we really thought about what we are telling them?
When we tell a child that they “just” need to find that one right book we dismiss much of their reading identity without even knowing it.
When we tell a child that they “just” need to find that one right book we dismiss all of the reading they have done to that point.
When we tell a child that they “just” need to find that one right book we dismiss the work that goes into reading for many of our students and all of the work they have put into becoming readers.
Sure, it is a hopeful statement, especially if you have the memory of that one book that made the biggest difference to you. But what about the child that tries every single day to read and it still doesn’t make sense? What about the child that did find that book but then was not able to find another one?
Because the thing is with helping students become readers who like to read, it is not about just finding one book. It is about finding one book they love and then finding the next one, and then the next. That doesn’t simply happen no matter what we tell kids. It takes work, patience, persistence, and even some luck at times. It takes conversations and questions and hope for every child. It takes relationship and communication. Honesty and even frustration. It takes you knowing a child and a child knowing themselves. Because while one great book can be just a fluke two great books are harder to dismiss. It is about helping them find these books on their own. about figuring out who they are. About validating all of the experiences they have had with reading so far and either protecting the positive or changing the negative.
And so before we let the words roll off our tongue so easily, stop for a moment and think; what is it we really mean when we say “just find the right book?” Because it is not just the book they need, it is the time, the skill, the motivation, and the dedication. And while it starts with a great book it does not end there, even in the best of circumstances.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.