Monday, October 3, 2011

Building a Reading Life Success Tip # 2

How can you help students have the best reading life ever? I used to believe simply providing students with independent reading every day, reading aloud wonderful literature everyday, having a love of reading myself, and expecting them to read at school and home would create this "ya gotta do it, so you might as well love it" least that's the way it sounds in most of the books about teaching reading that I have read. While I believed this, I'm not sure I ever said it out loud to my students until this year.

One of the first lessons in Building a Reading Life had me address this attitude head on. Lucy Calkins talks about being a "curmudgeon" towards books, and tells students that we all have a choice in the attitude we take towards things that we do in our lives. We can read like books are gold or we can read like curmudgeons (basically a curmudgeon would read cantankerously, with a grouchy attitude, scowling face and all). Over exaggerating this attitude for my students helped them get the point that we have a choice and if reading is something we are going to do EVERY DAY at home and school AND if we are going to have the BEST reading life ever, we should choose to read like books are gold. In everything we enjoy doing, we have all had the best of times and the worst of times. Students can relate to this and see why they shouldn't give up on having a good reading life just because they have had bad reading experiences in the past. If a book is turning a child into a curmudgeon, then it's the wrong book. This year, I didn't just hold that belief, I feel like I shouted it to the school's rooftop. "IF A BOOK IS TURNING YOU INTO A CURMUDGEON, PUT IT DOWN NOW!!!!"

This has become our inside joke for many things in the classroom--grumpy about a math problem? done with being challenged? annoyed it's Monday? "Are you being a curmudgeon?" I ask my students, and their grumpiness melts away with a little smile.

So, TIP #2: Call out the curmudgeon-ness that could exist towards reading. Put it out there, then convince students that it's the wrong relationship to have with books. (Then, make sure you hold independent reading time sacred every day, demonstrate a love of reading yourself, and expect students to read at school and home.)

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