Monday, August 4, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Tuesday

I just returned from my annual golfing trip to Michigan with 11 other guys. Four days, 126 holes of golf, lots of laughing, and good food. It's our fifth year of going to Augusta, MI and it always signals the beginning of the end of summer for me. I'm beginning to think about going to the school to get a few things done before the kids are back in just about three weeks. For my colleagues reading this, yes, I said I'm going to the school to work well before the powers that be require it.

I'm pretty excited about some changes in the library. I've opened up some space to create a bit of a comfortable reading area. Reading Franki's entry at A Year of Reading inspired me to share this with you. I'll be sure to post some pictures when it's finished.

I've been reading your comments on Karen's entry about creating life long readers. While I agree with most of what is said, I think sometimes we're too hard on ourselves as teachers and parents. I also think some of what is seen as best practice sometimes does more harm than good. Let me share my experience to explain what I mean.

In my classroom I used to require an assigned amount of reading minutes to my students. I would collect their log sheets and grade them according to the minutes read. I thought this was creating kids who liked to read. Then my own children reached the age of the required reading minutes. Before that they could both be found just enjoying picture books or comics or children's magazines, just because it was fun. My daughter was a master story teller at 4 with voices and everything, very dramatic and watching her retell Snow White is still one of my favorite home videos.

Once they had to begin to record minutes for school, reading became an assignment, a chore to be finished by setting a timer and stopping mid sentence when it went off. They stopped reading for pleasure, and to this day, still are not pleasure readers. It breaks my heart.

It changed my teaching, and thanks to my friend Maria, the way I kept track of their reading. Instead of minutes, we talked about and kept track of books read in a notebook. Kids who seemed to be slacking were encouraged to read more, or find a genre that fit them better. Kids who read a lot were encouraged to try other genres to stretch themselves. All in all, 52 kids read close to 3000 books as I recall. They were thrilled, and I don't know if they are reading for pleasure now, but they did then. Teachers certainly can inspire kids to become readers, we just have to think creatively and encourage them to form a life long habit.

As for the parents as role models, my kids see me read ALL OF THE TIME, and they still don't pick up a book first. It frustrates me, but I keep talking about how much I love to read and hope that at some point they will too. I'm really working with my 13 year old son this summer to find books he likes and wants to read. Right now he and I are reading a Ridley Pearson novel about an adventure at Disney World called Kingdom Keepers. He says he likes it, but he still has to be encouraged to pick it up, he doesn't do it on his own.

As for video games, computers, television we'll never compete with it. In my opinion we have to just keep introducing them to great books with the confidence that when they get older and put these things behind, and they will, they will remember some of what we taught them and pick up a good book.

Well that' my two cents worth on that, let's take it easy on ourselves and keep sharing great literature with our kids, banking on the fact that we are building a foundation for a life long reader in every student.

1 comment:

  1. Choice of books and love of reading PRICELESS!! Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to go along for the ride. It was amazing to watch their growth as readers!