It’s been four weeks since I have had a chance to discuss his reading one on one. Four weeks since he decided to abandon the first book he had started after he was only 60 pages in and it had been more than three weeks of reading every day. Four weeks since I got to have more than a surface level conversation about his reading life and I cannot wait to see what he says.
He tells me his goal is to read more, a goal I hear quite often in 7th grade. I ask him to tell me more, why this goal, how is it going. he grins and says, not so well, he really isn’t reading much.
I ask him about his book but that’s not it, he likes it a lot. Then what is it? He says, like so many kids before him, “I just don’t like to read…”
We finish our conversation and he pledges to try to find some time outside of class to get further. After all, he has yet to actually finish a book this year. I pledge to check in more often, even just a short visit, just to see if his new laid plans are working out.
He returns to his book and I return to the next child waiting to tell me about their reading life.
How often does this moment play out in our schools? How often have we met those kids that tell us that they just don’t like reading and we feel the end of the year rushing toward us as if we, too, will fail in helping these kids create positive reading identities?
How often do we question the very practices we know kids need to become readers; time, access, choice, and community?
How often do we feel like we must be the teachers that cannot crack the code of this child and that all is already lost?
But before we despair.
Before we punish.
Before we tighten the reins.
Before we add more steps, more logs, more comprehension worksheets.
Before we think of what else we need to keep them accountable.
Take a moment and realize that we are in this for the long game.
That a child not liking reading even after we have been their teacher for almost two months does not mean that we have failed. It does not mean that they have failed either.
It means that we are working on it.
That we celebrate the honesty when a child dares to tell us that they don’t like reading, and no, they are not reading outside of school.
That we thank them for the information and then ask them what they plan on doing with it.
That we remind them that reading matters and that we hope that they will find a way to make it matter to them.
We are not in this reading game to get them reading just this year. We are in it to get them reading for life.
So before we change the approach of giving kids choice in books, time to read, access to books, and a community to read with, remember to have some patience.
Patience to remember that creating new habits takes time.
Patience to remember that it often takes many books to see yourself as an established reader.
Patience to remember that it often takes many conversations, many opportunities, many check-ins and walk-aways to really help a child find themselves as a reader.
And then when we question our own practices that we thought would work for every child, we remember that we may be up against years of unestablished reading habits and that just a few short months with us is not enough. That sometimes we are just the tourniquet that stops the flow of hatred of reading and that it won’t be until later years that a child finds themselves within the pages of a book and cannot imagine coming back out.
So give yourself credit for the successes you see in your reading communities. Give yourself credit for the books being shared. For the joy being created. And give yourself credit for having unlimited patience, especially for the child that tells you once again that they just don’t like reading. Not yet, anyway.
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.