Friday, June 7, 2024

Value Readers

Recently during a lunch break, teachers were talking about ways to encourage students to read more. They shared ideas, like encouraging choice and using scheduled time for reading. They were passionate about the importance of DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time being built in to the daily schedule. A couple of teachers said that time is the biggest constraint. They said that with reading time built into the school schedule, everyone could read more. Everyone would be expected to read they said. We could do book talks and we could.... and we could... all of the things. Were all of the things actually reading? Reading adjacent, sure.

I enjoyed listening and remembering similar conversation from my years in schools. I kept quiet though. 

I thought about Linda Rief and time I spent in her classroom and I thought about teachers whose practice I've studied and learned with (Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Jen Roberts,  Jennifer Serravallo, Nancie Atwell). Listening to that group of teachers brought Atwell's wisdom to mind: 

“When we invite readers’ minds to meet books in our classrooms, we invite the messiness of human response—personal prejudices, personal tastes, personal habits, personal experience. But we also invite personal meaning, and the distinct possibility that our kids will grow up to become a different kind of good reader, an adult for whom reading is a logical, satisfying, life-long habit, someone who just plan loves books and reading.”

–Nancy Atwell, In the Middle

Reading is personal. As such, it becomes a personal passion, a personal responsibility. It cannot be "logged" or journaled dry. Reading varies. In a classroom full of students, it's messy and wonderful all at once.

I believe students have the right to reading time everyday in my classroom. I am the one responsible for protecting that time and providing it to the readers in the room. I am that decisive element, not the school's schedule. We make time for what we value. While many schools live their values in their daily schedules; many cannot. As a classroom teacher, why wait on the school's schedule? Encourage readers now. Make reading the default when students finish other work early or are looking for something different to do. Give readers the right to read whenever, however, and whatever they want.

I believe in readers' rights, as Daniel Pennac defined them early in my teaching and learning life. I believe in the power and magic of the right book at the right time as the late Goddess of YA,  Dr. Teri Lesesne said in Making the Match. I believe as Stephen Krashen does in The Power of Reading--that is free and voluntary.

I believe in following the Yellow Brick Roads of story and information to bring late Dr. Allen into the conversation. At all costs I believe, as Kelly Gallagher asserts, we must avoid Readicide in high school English departments and turn our faces to the light and love on the page as does Penny Kittle in Book Love. I still believe in Bandura's observational learning assertions and the fabric of Vygotsky's social-constructivism that brings a community of readers together around what is valued.

I used to think that we needed to track that reading, log it, record it, count it up. I learned that accounting actually de-motivates readers. Joy is in the doing and sharing, not in the surveillance.

When students see that teachers value independent reading, they begin to value it too. I know because students have told me so.

Valuing  reading in the classroom means making time for it, doing it, talking about it, monitoring it, assessing it, celebrating it and sharing it. We are the gardeners of our reading communities. We sow the seeds through passion and example. We tend the readers and celebrate when they bloom.  

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