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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Reading Is Lifework

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JoEllen McCarthy (@JoEllenMcCarthy) recently joined #PTchat to discuss “Building Your To Be Read (TBR) List.” Many books, and tips to encourage #BookLove, were shared by her and the #PTchat community. That discussion inspired this post by JoEllen and me.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan

As we continue to watch the snow fall in the Northeast, we can’t help but be surrounded by this incredible gift of nature. “When you’re inside, safe in the warmth of your home watching snow fall on your driveway outside, all snowflakes look the same. But, when you look at a snowflake up close, particularly when you do so under a microscope, you quickly discover that all snowflakes are in fact unique.” ~ Scott Ambler  

As parents and educators we know that like snowflakes, no two children are alike and it is simply not possible to have the same book be perfect for every reader in our classrooms, or in our lives.  But books need to be in our lives.  Reading is lifework.  Part of that work is about making choices. We choose to honor voices and choices. We choose to celebrate reading and reading lives.  

Choice empowers.  Carol Dweck talks about the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset, Peter Johnston speaks of the power of Choice Words. When we change words, we change mindsets. A powerful invitation: “You don't have to read--you get to read.”  Reading is lifework.

When we celebrate reading choices and help to match the right book to the right reader at the right time…something incredible happens.

Steven Layne, author of Igniting a Passion for reading says the four most important words our readers/children will ever hear are,

"I thought of you.”

Books, like teachers and parents - touch the lives of readers. It is about “growing” those relationships- connecting books with readers that leads to the incredible process of making lifelong readers.   

As educators, you have choices too. There are many incredible resources to help facilitate this conversation. That is what JoEllen calls spreading the #PDLove. One may choose Naked Reading, Making the Match, Reading Ladders by Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer-Awakening the Reader in Every Child, and Reading in the Wild, Book Love by Penny Kittle and Steven Layne’s Igniting a Passion for Reading.  So many titles to choose from.  A message that is shared? Reading is lifework. Honor the voices and choices of all readers. Provide the time and the opportunities for independent reading.  Reading is lifework. Provide the time to support and engage readers.  Choice words matter too.  There are all kinds of readers.   Donalyn Miller speaks of the dormant reader, Layne the disengaged, Lesesne asks us to focus on reenergizing readers. We need to reach them all.

Dweck—talks about the power of YET.  How can we support this mindset and help all readers become lifelong “growing readers” with plans, identities and the motivation to read?  Penny Kittle wrote, “Students who I believe are determined nonreaders become committed, passionate readers given the right books, time to read, and regular responses to their thinking. The pathway to difficult reading begins with books they enjoy. Once they're reading, together we can reach for the challenging literature I want them to know. Rich and rewarding reading lives are within reach for all of our students.”

Irene Fountas echoed an important message. “Look at all students’ lives, not levels.  Levels are a teacher's tool, not a child's label. It is about lives and love. Teachers and parents need to be partners in helping children make good choices. We need to celebrate their reading lives, promote a love of reading and readers’ choices. Enjoy the journey. May your TBRs- be never ending.

You can find a complete list of the resources and books compiled during the chat here: http://goo.gl/lcpF8d

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

I was trained as a small group reading instructor- different books/different levels "Sit at your seat read pages 23-39-answer these questions" you know the deal. This was "reading" and then my students had DEAR time-self-selected reading. This was how my school taught reading. I enjoyed it. Then I moved to a more literature circle style with groups having different jobs, etc... Then I interned at Nancie Attwell's school and went reading workshop crazy with kids all reading different books/writing literature letters to me/reviews/and talking to me about books...Then my school purchased a big corporate reading program that sent us back to whole group instruction with some small groups.

Yes, a crazy ride. Of course, I do the program, but when my students are not "doing" the program, they are reading independently/writing literature letters/conferencing. Every time I sit down next to a student a say, "So, how's that thing (book) treating you?" I don't only learn about the book, I learn about the student, the human. I make a connection every time I do it. And those connections help me get more "right" books into the hands of my students.

In the words of Dave Matthews,"Funny the Way it is" that the buzz words going around are reading stamina, but how in the world are you supposed to gain stamina when you're reading as a whole class and working on so many skills that you get 5 minutes a day of silent reading (ahem--big money corporate programs).


Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

Gwen, this is a great post. As a father and an English teacher, one of the joys that I look forward to, is allowing my son to find the boys that speak to him through the different stages of his life. It is all about choice. I bought him a copy of Where the Wild Things Are at a barn sale and he's barely touched it. He'd rather read about monster trucks and the Bernstain Bears. And that's ok. When we try to impose books on kids, that's when the get turned off to the wonderful act of reading.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Gaetan....love the open question "how's that thing treating you?" The answer could go in so many directions...especially with younger ones. And, yes, reading stamina doesn't happen overnight. We need to provide our kids with the time to read on their own...in school and at home. Time to truly get lost in a book.

Brian....none of my kids like the same kind books as me for the most part. Thankfully, they all are always actively adding books to their TBR lists. My 13yo son often goes w series, but my 10yo daughter loves to ask others. Just last week she came home with a book her classmate recommended. She said she was stumped on what to check out from the library, so asked her classmate who she said "is always reading a new book each day," so she figured she'd have a good recommendation.

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