being a student, being a teacher, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

On Reader Identity and Its Importance

I was asked recently why the need to focus on reader identity.  Won’t that develop normally if we just focus on skills and all of the things we do within our reading communities?  In the past, I would have said, maybe, perhaps reader identity develops no matter what we do, now, however, my answer would be a little more complicated than that.

Yes, reader identity develops in whichever way with whatever we do in our classrooms.  This is how we end up with the difference in readers.  Those who love to read, those who tolerate it as a means to a purpose, and those who cannot wait to tell us just how much they hate reading.

But to develop a meaningful reader identity, one that goes beyond the obvious questions of are you a reader or not, we have to have teaching opportunities where students can explore what their reading identity is to begin with and then chart a specific course to further explore it and grow.

That means we spend an awful lot of time self-reflecting, discussing and also setting goals so that every child has a chance to answer thoughtfully, who are they as a reader.  So that every child can leave our year together having a fuller sense of what it means for them to be a reader, particularly outside of school and our set reading environments.  This discovery is what creates lifelong readers, but it won’t just happen for all if we don’t make it a point to actually bring it into our teaching.  If we don’t actually plan for the development of all reading identities within our time together.

So where do you start?  Well, I start with a survey (it can be found here or here ) not just so I can get to know the kids but so that they can start getting to know themselves.

Then we confer: what are their reading goals?  No longer do I set the goals for kids, instead they reflect on the relationship and needs they have within reading and then set a goal.  One that is meaningful and personal to their growth.  Some need a lot of help uncovering what that is and others seem to know right away what they need to work on.  We use the 7th-grade reading challenge to help them goal set as we discuss that for some quantity of reading is a great goal, while for others it is much more about habits and developing who they are.

And then we start the work.  The reading, the lessons, the experiences that create our reading community.  Woven throughout all of that though is the need to go back and reflect on the goal they have set and to help them process their own growth.

So every time I confer.

So every time we reflect.

So every chance we get, I ask, “What are you working on as a reader?” and let their answers guide our conversation.

Those who set a goal just to set a goal are quickly helped to try to come up with a goal that is more meaningful to them.  Those who set a goal that doesn’t make sense are quickly prompted to dig deeper.  And those who set a goal that they have little way to reach on their own, well, that’s where our teaching comes in.

It is within the constant conversation always circling back to the question, “Who are you as a reader?” that our students can start to piece together their answer. That they can start to understand the identity that they carry as a reader.   That answer goes beyond their book likes, their reading minutes, their skills.  It speaks to how they handle books, now just how much they read, but when they read, how they select what to read, and what they do with it once they are done.  How they view reading within the broader scope of their lives and who they will be as readers one they leave us.

So whenever I am asked, why bother with student reading identity, I think of the students who started out simply telling me that reading was not for them but left us knowing so much more.  That reading was for them if they found the right book, had the right place and took the time to read.  That reading was for them because they had found meaningful moments within the pages of a book the previous years.  That they perhaps would even consider reading outside of class now.  This is where we see the change.  This is where we do the work.

PS:  Yup, I am still stepping back and doing less.  This post felt like I should write it so I did.  Who knows when the next one will come.

 

Advertisements
administration, being a teacher, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

Be a Reader Leader – What Administrators Can Do to Promote a Reading Culture

White, Black, Yellow,  Free Image

I originally wrote this post in 2015 and thought it needed an update, so here you are.

Dear administrators, whether principal, coaches, or anyone else who supports reading education outside of the classroom.

I have been pleading with teachers for a few years to please help students become passionate readers.  I have given as many ideas as I could and directed toward the great minds that inspire me as well.  I have begged at times, sharing the words of my students as proof that we teachers have an immense power when it comes to either nurturing a love of reading or killing it.  There are so many things we teachers can do that will have a lasting effect.  I even wrote a book compiling all of the lessons my students taught me when it came to creating a passionate reading community.

Discussing, learning from, and teaching other educators has been a part of my journey for many years now.

And yet, within my travels of teaching others, I am constantly reminded that it is not just the teachers that have an immense power over whether children will read or not.  That it turns out that much of that power also lies within the realm of administration.  In fact, one of the most oft-repeated statements I hear when teachers struggle to implement common sense reading components such as independent reading time is that their administrators do not support it.  Yet, I also hear of how many of you, administrators, are doing incredible things to create schools that are seen as literacy communities that cherish the act of reading and becoming readers.

And so I write this post to share some ideas that have been shared with me so that others, in turn, may grow in their craft.  So that the pursuit of a passionate reading community can truly become a community endeavor and not just lay on the shoulders of solitary educators who are trying.  What  are they doing?  What can you do to foster a love of reading school-wide?

You can believe in choice for all.  That means protecting the rights of students to read the books they choose.  To help staff support this as well by speaking about choice and making sure not to put restrictive policies in place that will hinder a child from developing their own reading identity.  That will stop a child from choosing a book they want to read.  Teachers should not be the only ones choosing books for students, please don’t put them in that position.  Instead, they should be working with students to learn how to self-select great books based on many things, not just their levels, lexile or other outside measures!

You can promote meaningful work.  For too long, packets, projects and one process for all have dominated the reading landscape.  And yet, if we ask students what turns them off from reading they tell us loudly and clearly that often it is the work that is associated with reading, not the reading itself, that pushes them away.  So look at what is attached to all of the reading students do.  Start conversations with staff about the literacy work that is contained within their classroom.  Ask the students about the reading programs they are involved in and then change your approaches based on their words.  We cannot change if we don’t ask the questions first.

You can buy books.  Research shows again and again how vital having not only a well-stocked school library but also a full classroom library is to students becoming better readers.  Students need books at their fingertips, not far away, and they need high quality, high-interest books that not only mirror their own stories but also provide windows and sliding glass doors to learn about the stories of others to quote Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop.   This requires funding, so please allocate money every year to provide more books for your teachers.  Before you purchase an expensive program to teach reading or more technology, please make sure that books have been purchased as well.

You can fight to have a librarian full-time in your building. Everywhere we are seeing libraries that have no librarians, yet a knowledgeable librarian can be the lifeblood of a reading community.  I know budgets are being slashed, but the librarian should be seen as a necessity in schools, not as an unnecessary privilege.  They are another reading adult that helps support the work of everyone in the school.

You can celebrate books read.  Not the number of minutes logged or the points gained in computer-based reading programs.  Not just those who reached an arbitrary goal set by an outside force.  How about keeping a running tally of how many books students self-selected to read and then finished?  How about you keep a display board of all of the picture books being shared in your school, yes, even in middle school and high school?  How about every child is celebrated for reaching a goal that they set themselves?  In fact, at the end of the year think of how powerful it would be if every single student gave themselves a reading award based on whichever milestone accomplishment they have reached.  Celebrations should not just be for the few, they should be for all.  Celebrate the right things, not the ones that can kill a love of reading.

You can protect the read aloud.  When schedules are made there should be time placed for reading aloud.  This should not be seen as a frill, nor as something that would be nice to fit in if only we had more time. All students at every age should encounter an adult that reads aloud fluently with expression to them every day.  It develops their minds as readers and creates community.  This should not just be reserved for special times in elementary school but should be protected throughout a child’s reading experience in school.

You can promote independent reading time.  Students reading silently is not time wasted, it is one of the most important investments we can make in our school day for any child, any age.  If you want children to become better readers, then give them the time to read.  So ensure that every child has at least one class period where independent, self-selected reading is supported and protected.  Often, this is the first thing to go when we plan curriculum especially when students are older, as we assume they will do it outside of school, yet reading statistics shows us this is not true.  Therefore, we must plan, implement, and protect it during the school day for every single child.

You can hire teachers that love reading.  And not just in the English department.  I am amazed that there are teachers who teach literacy in any capacity that do not identify themselves as readers.  This should not be happening.  Years of experience shows that students will read more if we read as well and are able to create a book community where our love of reading is a cornerstone of what we do.  Even when I taught non-literacy subjects, even when I taught science, the fact that I read for my own pleasure meant that our conversations were deeper, more engaging, and the students trusted me as a reading role model.  Plus, how powerful to have students learn within a community of adult readers.  When they can see every adult as someone who values literacy?

You can use levels for books and not for children.  Too often the levels that a child reads at becomes their entire reading identity.  Yet, that level is meant to be a teacher’s tool and not a child’s label to quote Fountas and Pinnell.  That level should be a part of that child’s reading identity but not the thing that defines them.  We should not have policies in place where students can only choose books that are at their levels, but instead, have policies that promote exploration of texts so that students have a natural chance to figure out who they are as readers.  Confining them, even if meant to be helpful, will hurt them in the long run.  And this includes leveling our school libraries and classroom libraries, a practice Fountas and Pinnell are against.

You can discuss students as individuals, not as data.  Oftentimes, programs are purchased that support reading development that spits out a lot of data.  And yet, as we are inundated with data we often lose sight of the child itself.  We start to casually label children as struggling or low readers and then don’t question how that label ends up identifying the child.  So be critical responders to the data you receive and keep the child at the front of the conversation, not the back.  One idea for this comes from Dr. Mary Howard, who encourages us to always have a picture of the child we are discussing in front of us so that we remember the whole child and not just the data points.

You can support challenging texts being used.  In order for teachers to truly create an inclusive library that mirrors the lives of all of our students, we need books that represent all of their stories.  That means we need age-appropriate books about gender identity, racism, abuse, sexual identity, religious discrimination, and other harder topics.  Yet, in many districts teachers are not protected when it comes to placing these books in the hands of children.  This creates a dangerous vacuum where only certain stories are viewed as normal, which can lead to an increase in intolerance and hate.  Establish a policy of tolerance, empathy, kindness, and understanding of others and apply it to the books that are in your school.  Support teachers if a book is challenged.  Understand the urgency of these stories being present in the classroom so that we can create a more understanding world.

You can support and promote the need for two types of reading experiences.  For too long we have focused on the development of reading for skills, not for the love of reading.  Yet, we need both types of experiences in order to fully develop as readers.  Actively support your teachers in creating both types of reading experiences within their day and create a community-wide discussion of how to promote liking reading more, not just which lessons are needed to further their reading skills.

You can build a school-wide reading community.  Celebrate books together, have book announcements, book giveaways, and have every staff member have a “just read” poster outside of their classroom or office.  Give out book recommendations to students as you see them.  Pass out books to those who need them.  Host book clubs for staff and parents.  Highlight the readers in your community and yes, highlight your own reading.

You can have tough conversations.  Part of my job as a teacher is to grow and learn and while I think that most of my ideas are solid, I wish an administrator would have questioned me when I had students do reading logs and forced book reports a few years back.  While the push-back may be hard to swallow, it certainly would have made me think.  However, within those tough conversations, please do listen to the teacher as well.  What are they basing their decisions on?  Perhaps they are the ones who are right, perhaps not, but ask the questions and keep the bigger goal in mind; students who like to read!

What else can you do to create a school where the love of reading flourishes?

You can be a guest read alouder.

You can have books in your office for students to read.

You can share your own reading life by displaying your titles outside your office.

You can make assemblies and other fun events that celebrate literacy.

You can bring in authors.

You can promote reading literacy projects like The Global Read Aloud or Dot Day.

You can ask students what they are reading whenever you see them.

You can institute school-wide independent reading time.

You can speak out against poor literacy decisions being made within your district.

You can ask your teachers for ideas on how to grow as a reader leader.

You can ask your students what they need and then implement their wishes when possible.

You can ensure that your most vulnerable readers are placed with the best teachers.

You can promote the use of picture books at every level.

You can support new ideas within literacy practice, even if they fall outside of a program you may be implementing.

You can keep fidelity to the kids, and not the program to quote my incredible assistant superintendent, Leslie Bergstrom.

You can provide audiobook subscriptions.

You can actively develop your own reading identity and then share that journey with others so that they can see that there is not just one way to be a reader.

You can reflect together with your staff on what may be hindering the love of reading from growing and then do something about.

You can believe that every person is a reader on a journey.

You can send your teachers to professional development with the likes of Kylene Beers, Cornelius Minor, Sara Ahmed, Kate Roberts, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher and any other of the incredibly talented literacy experts that inspire us all.

There are so many things that fall within your realm, please help us teachers (like my principal Shannon Anderson does) protect the love of reading that students have and nurture it as we teach.  You can choose to create passionate reading environments or you can support decisions that smother them.  The choice is yours.

being a teacher, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

On Real Reading and the Kids We Teach

I asked our oldest daughter, Theadora, how many books she thought she had read this year.  Crestfallen and quiet she answered four.  Four?  I asked, confused.   How can you only have read four?  She reads all of the time, never without a book, always asking to read just one more page before the lights are turned off.

Don’t you mean real books, mom?

Real books? I said.  What are real books?  I mean all books, graphic novels included.

She lit up.  Fifty, Mom, maybe more, at least fifty though.

Fifty books for a child who didn’t think they would ever be a reader because reading was just too hard.

Fifty books for a child who has been in reading intervention for four years.

Fifty books for a child who wasn’t sure that she would ever get through a whole book on her own, at least not one with a lot of pages.

Thea is a voracious reader, and yet, if you were to believe some adults, all of that reading she does doesn’t really count.  If I were to listen to some adults, some teachers, then all of those graphic novels wouldn’t count as real reading because they had pictures in them.  Because they were too easy.  Because they were silly.

I would have to tell Thea that all of those books she loves aren’t real books and that it is time for her to read something real.  To read something hard.  To grow up a little.

Could you imagine?

Yet, this happens to so many kids in so many schools.  When they come to us proudly bearing their Captain Underpants, their Diary of A Wimpy Kids, their manga, we take one look and tell them that in this school, we need to read real books.  That this year, they need to grow as a reader.  That this year it is time to get serious as a reader.

We tell them it is time to try something else or else they will not really grow.

Thea became a reader because of Dav Pilkey.  Because of Dogman.  Because of finding a book where she could decode the images and then decode the words, synthesize the two and come up with meaning.  I will never forget the look on her face when she declared herself a reader.  Her teachers may not know that, there is so much we don’t know,  and I think of how many teachers do not understand the journey that some kids have been on to finally identify as readers.  That some teachers may not see just how big of a mountain becoming a reader has been to climb.  And so we dismiss their journey in the finality of our words as if real reading is only when a book is devoid of pictures or doesn’t make you laugh.

When we tell a child that the book they are reading is too easy, we have no idea how hard it just might be for them.

When we tell a child that the book they are reading is not challenging them, we have no idea just how much work they may be doing.

When we tell a child that it is time for them to try something else, we have no idea just how much they have tried before they finally had success with the book they are reading.

What if we instead reveled in their success?

What if we instead encouraged them to keep reading “easy” books knowing that at some point they will choose something else?

What if we instead told them how glad we are that they know themselves enough as a reader to know that this book, that this series is a great fit for them.

What if we instead gave them more books?  More time?  More appreciation for the work they are doing so that they could see their own success.

We are so quick to tell kids to challenge themselves.  We are so quick to dismiss their entire reading experiences.  We are so quick to tell them that what real readers do without realizing the damage our words may have.  It has to stop.

Thea is still a vulnerable reader.  A reader who finds comfort, courage, and strength within the pages of a graphic novel.  She grows her confidence in bursts and once in a while she branches into a book with no pictures.  She is on a journey.  My job is to support that journey, not destroy it through my well-meaning intentions.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  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.

 

 

 

 

being a teacher, books, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

Why We Need to Embrace Book Abandonment

White, Black, Yellow, Red,  Free Image

In the spring of 2016, I asked 1,200 students aged eight through thirteen in North America to explain how they felt about book abandonment.  I was curious because I had realized that working with my own students, that something as simple as letting go of a book in search of another book was not second nature to them.  In fact, many of my students struggled with the notion of letting go of a book even if it meant they were not reading.  Even if it meant they avoided the book.

This struggle had prompted me for years to do an actual lesson on abandoning a book.  On giving all of our students specific permission to step away from a book they had either indicated they wanted to read or actually started reading.  To step away from a book without having to try it for so many pages, for so many days.  To step away from a book even if their teacher recommended it.  Even if their best friend loved it.  Even if they loved it at first.

When I asked those 1,200 students I had an inkling of what they would say and yet I was taken back to see the answers.  Out of 1,200 students, more than 400 of them reported feeling guilty and disappointed.  That’s 33% of the respondents reporting that something as simple as letting go of a book made them feel bad.

My follow up question was why they felt the way they had felt.  There were three main responses.  Some children reported feeling like they had disappointed their teacher, after all, it was the teacher that had recommended the book to them in the first place.  Other’s reported that they were disappointed in themselves for picking a “bad” book to begin with.  And some even reported feeling guilty about not liking the author’s work, as if the author would somehow know that they didn’t like the book.

We know there is a lot of emotion tied up with being a reader, but we should not have guilt be one of them.

Students should rejoice at first when they realize that a book is not for them.  They should celebrate this milestone knowledge and be happy that they have uncovered another part of their reading identity.  And then they should move to not caring. To simply seeing book abandonment as yet another part of being a reader.  Of knowing when to let go.  Of knowing when to search for something better.

Now you may think, but what about those serial book abandoners?  The kids that never finish a book?  That haphazardly pick up a book only to leave it behind seemingly having checked off the reading requirement for a day?  They are a conversation waiting to happen; kids who do not know themselves as readers yet.  For ideas of how to work with them, please see this post. 

And while we need to teach students how to work through challenging text, we also need to give them opportunities to discover what love to read, what they cannot wait to read, what will bring them further into reading.  Book abandonment helps us with that if we embrace it as yet another skill that all readers know how to use.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  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.

 

 

Be the change, being a teacher, books, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

On Becoming a Reader

My husband is not a reader.

By far, he is one of the smartest people I know.  He can fix anything broken, he can solve any problem.  He can dream and plan and build pretty much anything.  But reading, in the traditional sense of books, nah… not for him.

When I first met him, I couldn’t figure out how someone as smart as him could not see value in books.  How could you live a full life without books?  And yet, in the 17 years, we have been together, he has shown me how many facets there are to a full life.  But now he has been in school for the past two years, getting his degree as a Tech Ed teacher, and the other day after taking a particularly grueling test, he told me how much he felt like he wasn’t smart enough for the test simply because of his reading pace.  You see, the test was timed, and so when the time was almost up, my husband did what many of our students do all of the time; filled in as many unanswered questions with random guesses as he could.  Better answered then left blank.

He told me how he knew he could have answered them right had he had the time.  He told me how he felt this pressure at all times knowing that he wasn’t going fast enough.  He told me that he tried to skim as quickly as he could but then lost meaning and had to read it all over again.

If he had only been a faster reader, he would have been just fine.

It blows my mind still that we equate reading pace with reading comprehension.  That we allow standardized tests to teach our children that if they cannot read quickly, they cannot read at all.  Which jobs require us to read complicated materials within 90 seconds?  But that’s the reality we face and so at the end of our discussion, I gave him my best advice; read more books.  It is the one guaranteed way to increase your reading speed.  Find books you love.  Take the time to read.  And you will see, your reading pace will increase.

He told me how he just didn’t like books.  How he didn’t mind reading technical stuff (which he devours daily), but that books just had never caught his attention.  That they were too slow, too boring, too confusing.  That reading was never anything fun or entertaining but always presented as an assignment; read this book, do this work. Rinse, repeat.  He sounded exactly like my most resistant readers.  The ones we all teach that tell us loudly and proudly that reading is not their thing and we will certainly not convince them otherwise.

And so I did what I do every single day of the year.  I handed him a book, Orbiting Jupiter, and told him to try it.  To give it a shot and if he didn’t like it, tell me and I would try again.

He sat down and read into the night then woke up and finished the book.  He finished the book!  And then he asked me for another.  I handed him How it Went Down.  He started to read.

Today we went to my classroom to grab stuff.  He went to the bookshelves and started to browse.  Grabbed a few books, asked me about others.  Together we book-shopped.  He was open to whatever but had a few ideas, maybe some war history?  Maybe something with a fast pace?  Social justice lens?

IMG_4631.jpg
Brandon’s To Be Read Pile – his first one ever…

I quickly grabbed my tried and true, added them to his pile and realized right in that moment that I was working with him like I would any resistant reader: offer choice, support, time to read, and most importantly communication.  At 41 years old, it seems that my husband is finally going properly through the motions of what it means to know yourself as a reader.  And I couldn’t be prouder.

So often we focus on these aspects of developing reader identify when students are young.  Before they reach middle and high school.  Once they come to us older, perhaps more jaded, more stubborn, we sometimes forget to go back to the basics.  To treat them as we would any developing reader.  To go back to choice, community, access to meaningful books and discovery of who they are as readers.  To find the time to actually help them become the reader they can be.  Too often the content gets in the way.  All of the little things that constitute what teaching sometimes becomes, rather than what it should be.  We assume that someone certainly will figure out how to help this child become a reader without realizing that that someone is us.  That we are the person who needs to somehow reshape the reading experience that they have had until now so that they do not become adults who do not read.

Today, I was reminded of how it is never too late.  How every child that we teach has the potential to see themselves as a reader by the time our year is up.  That even the adults that tell us that they are not readers can still become readers.   But that they need our help, not our judgment, our know-it-betterness, our confusion of how they could live without books.  Instead, they need what every reader needs; choice, books, community, time, personalization, and understanding.

My husband is not a reader, but that doesn’t mean he cannot become one, now.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  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.

being a teacher, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

Make Room For Both Types of Independent Reading

White, Black, Red,  Free Image

90 minutes.  This glorious amount of time awaits my students and me next year for our English classes. No more trying to cram everything into 45 minutes, no more rushing, no more skipping things.  90 whole minutes, and I cannot help but think of all we can become.

As I plan for these minutes, I realize that once again one of our central tenets will be the right to choose a book and to read it freely every single day.  With no post-its, no jots, no interruptions.  Just reading for the love of reading, every day, every child, no exceptions.  Because if we listen to Louise Rosenblatt, and I don’t know why we shouldn’t, she reminded us back in 1978 that children need to be taught that there are two types of reading.  Aesthetic reading which focuses on the love of reading, on living within texts so that we can create a relationship with the text.  On being with the text so that we can see ourselves as readers.  And also efferent reading, reading for skill, reading to work on reading.  The things we do with what we read.

For many years, it appears that we have focused mostly on the later.  The joy of reading has simply not been something we have made room for in our schools as we rush to utilize every single minute for instruction, for skill, for doing something.  And we see the direct results now.  The PEW Research Center reports that 24% of adults have not read a book in the last 12 months.  Scholastic reminds us that fewer and fewer children read a book for fun every day.  And we see it in our classrooms as students roll their eyes and tell us that books serve no purpose in their lives.  We see it when teachers tell us that they simply don’t have time for students to read in class because they have too much to cover.

We have lost our way when it comes to one of the basic premises of what teaching reading is really all about; reading for the love of it.  Reading to become a reader who reads without the threat of a grade or the promise of a reward.

We must do better than that.

And so next year, I will start once again with 10 minutes of uninterrupted reading time.  10 minutes where we simply work on loving reading.  Where we work on falling into the pages of a book and then staying there.  Nothing to do but read.  Then a mini-lesson and then we shift focus to the skills of reading.  There will be discussion, strategic lessons, small groups, and everything we love about the workshop model.  Students will know that they are now working on a different skill than before because it is within this knowledge they can see the difference.  They need to know there is a difference.

For too long we have lost too many kids in reading.  They have turned away from books because books meant more work.  More things to do.  More interruptions.  More accountability.  And while we need students who can apply the skills of reading, we more so need kids who will like reading once they leave us.  Who will not become a part of the 24& as we slide toward a more aliterate nation, a more aliterate world.  And it starts with the very decisions that we make every single day.  Where we look at the precious time we are given and get our priorities straight.  It was never about just making sure kids could pass tests, it was always about them becoming more than what they started as.  So we have to make room for both types of independent reading.  The one where kids “just” read and the one where they work while they read.  Otherwise, we will lose them.

It starts with the decisions we are making now as we reflect on the year ahead.  Make room for both because we cannot do the work if we don’t.  And if you don’t have the time, make the time.  Ask yourself what are you doing with the time?  how much time is lost simply in transitions?  In bell work?  In us teachers talking too much?  If we say we want students to become readers then that starts in our classrooms, not when they go home.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  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.