Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The bus ride, my shock, and my resolution

In our last four posts, both Bill and I have mentioned the trip we took to Boston with a busload of soon-to-be-middle school students. As we rode for miles and miles and miles and hours and hours and hours on the bus, I made a shocking observation. Of a busload of 35 children, I only saw 5 of them reading a book to pass the time at any point in time. Five!

I don't know the exact technology terminology, but the bus activity of choice was connecting to other people's hand-held game systems, and playing video games. While I don't have a personal vendetta against these games, I am just shocked at how many hours were spent by so many playing video games, and how only 5 students chose to read.

One reason I was shocked was that out of the 35 students, 23 came from the school where I teach. That means 23 children had myself or 2 of my colleagues (both who are passionate about language arts, also) as teachers last year. And I might add, they also had Bill as the school librarian! Because I know this, I am well aware that they were inundated with great books and teachers who demonstrated a passion for books.

So, knowing this, I am shocked by the fact that only 5 children chose to spend free time reading a book on this very long bus ride (I do need to add a disclaimer here that I wasn't sitting beside each child every minute of the bus trip, so there may have been a few others).

My resolution, then, as I approach this new school year is to find a way to help children want to make reading a free choice activity. To do this, I need to continue to find books that "hook" children who are finding it difficult to select a text. I need to make sure the books I choose to read aloud are powerful and interesting, and engage students in the story line. I need to continue reading my favorite blogs, so I always have new and current book titles to share with the students. I need to figure out what fascinates boys when they read (did I mention that out of the 35 students, 26 were boys?!). I need to match ALL students with the book that is "just right" for them. I need to develop a community of readers that lead literate lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

Right now, my resolutions are fairly global; my job will be to fine-tune them as I get to know my new community of students on August 25.

Maybe next year on the bus to Boston, more readers will be visible. That's my goal.


  1. YUCK! Reading in a moving vehicle. I can't do it. Maybe they get carsick. Although, I don't like the idea of being able to play a video game either, so mine might be a faulty theory.
    Fight the good fight next year and try to get MORE readers, but don't be disappointed when they say it makes them carsick.

  2. So you're already thinking about going back? COOL!

  3. Megan - I truly never considered them being carsick. Good point!

    Bill - If you noticed, I said their reading would be visible; I didn't necessarily commit and say it would be visible to ME! :)

  4. My two children (live in my house, I gave birth to) read ALL the time - in cars, on planes, buses, etc. NONE of their friends read! NONE. I restate NONE. We went to Florida with 4 teens (2 extra) and I required all of them to have books, real paper books, with them. My children almost cause me to pay extra money to the airlines due to the weight restrictions. The other 2 teens just rolled their eyes. I truly think that the schools are not where this is learned, it is home. It is a lifestyle choice. My 15 and 17 year-old grab books when we go to the doctor's office, when we head out in the car. They know it is a decision, it is a requirement of our life. Boredom is a decision, get a book or I will give you chores. And yes, my children love electronics too.

  5. I second what Deb said. Don't blame the teachers and librarians (ie:yourself, your team, and Bill) -- think about the modeling these kids have at home. How many of them automatically pop in a dvd when they get in the minivan? (Lots, based on how many movies I'VE watched through the back windows of vans!) Maybe it's never occurred to them to read during a long drive because they never knew it was an option.

    What Megan says is true, too. I count myself lucky that I can read in the car and that AJ does all the driving! More reading time for MOI!

  6. Deb and Mary Lee -
    I am in full agreement with both of your points. It just makes me feel like I have to work even harder at school to help children have literate lives.
    My largest goal has never been the focus on our state achievement test. I would feel a better measure of what I accomplish each year with my students as readers would be how they are as readers outside the classroom.

  7. I wonder if Read Alouds by the teachers at the school are really in place? I don't mean by you, but by all the staff. Sometimes, I do quick blessings of the books, and these books fly out of the library, my classroom, etc. I have a feeling you do this too. Does every teacher help you?