I love reading! I’ve always loved reading. When I was a preschooler, my grandmother used to come down from Sydney, Nova Scotia to visit. She’d take my sister and I to the mall, My grandmother and sister loved to shop, but I loved to read. My grandmother used to arrange for somebody to watch me in the bookstore, so that she could go off with my sister for a couple of hours of shopping. Imagine a preschooler surrounded by books on the floor of the children’s section in the Coles store at the mall … that was me! I’m sure that at the age of three or four I couldn’t actually read — hey, I was actually just starting to talk at that point — but it didn’t matter. My mom always read to me at home, and I knew the flow of my favourite stories and how to use pictures to create my own stories. I was captivated by books and I still am! With a month of summer vacation still left to go, I’ve already read 20 books — from humorous novels to mysteries and thrillers to educational reads — and I’m sure that I’ll read almost as many more in the coming weeks. Why do I share these “reading stories” with you? Because as a teacher that’s taught every grade, in some capacity, from JK-Grade 6, I’ve noticed how few students read for pleasure nowadays, and that bothers me. I was thinking of this very thought last night when I listened to Pernille Ripp‘s Ignite at Nerdcamp 2015.
I’m not sure that I feel exactly the same way as Pernille, but what definitely struck me by her talk — and what I continue to contemplate — is why so many students don’t love to read anymore. As teachers, are we partially to blame? I think about what I’ve done for years.
- I make reading into homework.
- Students rarely get a chance to share reflections, questions, and connections authentically.
- Levelled books and levelled readers make up a chunk of our classroom library, and all students know their reading levels.
- Books are primarily what students read … but what else could they read?
- Reading takes place primarily separately from other subject areas and activities. Why?
- We so rarely read just for the “joy” of reading: it’s always about teaching a decoding or comprehension strategy or practising a skill.
And then I remember the couple of days that we spent turning our classroom into a library. Students were so eager to categorize our books, look through them, talk about them, and label the hundreds of resources in our library.
The part of the day that still sticks with me the most is when one of my students — one that people would probably consider a “struggling reader” — sat down on a chair in the book nook and read through two Five Little __________ (different titles) all on her own. Now she’s heard these stories before and knew the pattern of the song, but she was so focused on the words, the pictures, and the books. This is a student that’s told me before that she “can’t read,” but on this day and at this moment, this is not how she felt.
I love that she saw herself as a reader, and this is what I want all children to feel. How can we find “joy” in reading if we don’t see ourselves as readers? Why would a beginning reader persevere with the reading process if he/she cannot find some happiness in doing so? In September, I start teaching Senior Kindergarten. One of my goals is that I want to help develop a love of reading.
- This means connecting with the home and seeing how reading can happen at home and at school.
- This means showing that reading is about more than just “books”: cereal boxes, newspapers, maps, notes, instructions, and diagrams are all things that we can read.
- This means giving time to let children enjoy reading in purposeful ways and as part of playing/learning.
- This means providing more authentic options for children to think and talk about what they read. It’s not about the need for detailed follow-up activities.
I know and agree with the importance of developing phonemic awareness and oral language skills to help students learn how to read. This blog post is not about that though: it’s about making reading more than just a school event. If our youngest students can want to read for pleasure, what impact with this have on them as they grow older? How can we help even more students want to read? What might we need to change to make this possible, and are we willing to make these changes?