“I don’t read” has been a refrain heard loudly in our classroom for the last three weeks. Several students have informed me that reading is not something they do. Not something we can get them to do. And they have been right. For the past three weeks, these few kids have stood by their words, proven them to be true and we have pondered what the solution may be.
I bet those students are in your room as well.
So what have we done, when children loudly claim this identity of children who will not even pick up a book? Who will not even open a book? Who will not even book shop? Who will not even give it a try?
We start with what we have a lot of; patience.
I think of the kids who come to us declaring loudly how much they hate to read and how many negative reading experiences they must have had to get to that point. How many times they must have felt defeated in the face of a book and now have found a way to protect themselves. When you refuse it is much easier to not get hurt. When you refuse it is not to anger the teacher, but o shield yourself from more embarrassment, more harm, more hurt. How every moment we do not force them to but instead offer them an opportunity for enticement is one more moment of negative counteracted by a moment of positive. Of how we tread lightly, offering up multiple opportunities to read every single day, but never shaming, never demanding.
Instead treating their refusal as the gift that it is; a view into the minds of a child who feels like the act of reading is not something that is safe for them.
So we treat it with care. With gentleness as we whisper our repeated question; how can we help? And we offer them an array of enticing books, leave them at their fingertips and walk away. Pop up books, picture books, graphic novels and other safe books placed within their reach with no judgment wrapped around them, but instead only an opportunity to try.
And we repeat that motion every day, reminding them that they should read but leaving it at that. Pushing books toward them and holding ourselves back from rushing over there if they do, indeed pick one up to flip through the pages, instead allowing them time to sit in the moment with a book, and not a teacher that tells, “See, I told you they weren’t all bad.”
And we speak books with them. Including them as a full-fledged reader in our classroom, sharing recommendations and not giving up despite their many shutdowns. Despite their many refusals. We invite them to book shop, to abandon books, to read books that matter to them even if they are not yet reading. There is no punishment attached to not being a reader who reads actively in our room, why should there be?
And we repeat this every single day for as long as it takes. And we smile, and we invite, and we try to help them feel safe. To see reading as something that is not hurtful, but instead a moment of quiet in an otherwise overwhelming world of noise.
And every day as they declare that they do not read, we acknowledge their truth and then offer them a word of hope, “yet…they do not read yet.” And that’s okay because we have a whole year to go.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. 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.