I love that silence that permeates our reading time. A certain peace settles over the room as thirty souls lose themselves in the pages of their books, the only sounds: rustling pages, tapping feet, or contented sighs. I also love that groan they emit when, after ten minutes, an eternity of silence, I implore them to mark their page and pause their reading for now. That’s exactly what I say to them, “Alright kiddos, lets pause our reading and get out our reader’s/writer’s notebook.”
While we’ve practiced that transition dozens of times, they still plead begrudgingly, “Can we just have more reading time!!!” “You can,” I tell them, “on your time.” Some of them, the truly committed, make time for their self-selected independent reading, but most, for now, do not. This reality, jarringly disturbing to committed readers like you or me, is something that keeps me up at night. It prompts old teacher/football coach friends to text me on Sunday morning, asking for some kernel of knowledge that might help them move readers. For this problem, though, there is only one short and fast answer: Hard Work.
I promise you this: We can’t afford not to give them everything we’ve got. That thought spurred this tweet from me earlier in the week:
We know reading and writing dovetail to form literacy. If we instruct using whole class novels, we run the risk of alienating many who can’t engage with something in which they have no interest and as a result, we get nothing. If we encourage choice reading and we allow the kids to choose not to read, we get nothing.
We must engage in their self-selected reading lives and I believe that I can’t do that if I’m reading while they read. While they read, I’m moving around the room, tracking pages read, asking the reluctant about their reluctance, asking the readers when, where, and why they are reading on their own, simultaneously serving both ends of the reading spectrum. You won’t ever find me sitting behind a desk, because my desk is shoved up against the wall, relegated to table status, as a place where papers pile.
It’s hard work, like everything about our roles as literacy advocates. It takes planning, reflection, and intention to match every kid to the perfect reading conference question.
That’s part of it too. One question does not fit all. If a student isn’t reading, they can’t reach into their reading experience to share with me their opinion on the effectiveness of setting, for instance, in their selection.
Also, I have to give them the sobering news that this lack of reading life may hinder their writing life as well, and while I don’t take grades for self-selected reading, I do take grades for writing and their engagement from one directly affects their success in the other. I need to tell them that, before their grades do.
Charles Moore loves conferring with readers, even struggling ones. He loves concerts with his wife and when his son texts during the concert, he texts back, “We are having fun without you.” He’s loving the new adventure with Pre-AP students and his freshman are growing on him; they are adorable. Check out his book review blog at www.mooreliteracy1.wordpress.com and his far too frequent twitter rants at @ctcoach.