“When I think of reading I think of pleasure, favorite authors, beloved books, libraries, bookstores, stories, and relaxation. I think of finding solace, of being suspended within the unique world a talented author has created. I think of language beautifully crafted and books so mesmerizing that afterward, I want to tell other readers, “You’ve got to read this book.” I do not think of levels, programs, groupings, or tests. Those are school things that ultimately do not determine who becomes a reader.” ~ Regie Routman, Literacy Essentials
As I read Regie’s words, I was invigorated and passionately agreed with what it means to be a reader. It’s the type of reader I want my son to be and all kids to be.
However, as I read through Regie’s tips on how to create readers (see below), I began reflecting on myself as a K-12 literacy coach. I wondered, despite my beliefs being aligned with Regie’s in how to create life-long readers, do I, as a literacy coach, not balance my discussions with standards, strategies, and the workshop structure with other things such as teachers sharing their reading lives, daily read alouds, and getting kids engaged in text?
My initial thought was, “The questions I get from teachers typically are centered around the steps of the mini-lesson, how to group kids or wanting clarity on a standard and less about how to engage students in life-long reading.” While these questions are important, one thing I could do is be the one who brings up the discussions around engaged-life long readers more than what I do. I need to balance teacher needs/questions with pushing their thinking about what Regie says the end goal of teaching reading is: students who choose to read for pleasure and information and to expand our worldview. Based on the tips proposed in the section Regie entitled “Excellence 5: Teaching Readers,” below are some questions literacy leaders can use to guide teachers in creating readers.
- How do you share your reading life with your students?
- Who can you invite into your classroom to share their reading life with your kids?
- Reflect on yourself as a reader? Are you a non-reader and do you believe it’s too late for you? (Research says it’s not too late).
- Is a daily read aloud a ritual in your classroom?
- Do you stop too much to model thinking in your read aloud (to the point where enjoyment in the text is lost)?
- Do you utilize engaging picture books (yes, even for middle school and high school teachers)?
- Do you encourage your students to study the craft of the author in their independent reading books?
- Is independent reading a non-negotiable in your classroom every day?
- Do students have access to a wide range of interesting and readable text in your classroom?
- Do you tap into the knowledge of experts in creating life-long readers (Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesesne, Franki Sibberson, Nancie Atwell, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Laura Robb, Cris Tovani and Pernille Ripp)?
- Do you know what books your students prefer?
- Do you limit extrinsic rewards?
- Do you balance fiction and non-fiction?
- Do you have a personal preference for fiction and does that lead you to not using as much non-fiction?
- Do you confer with students on appropriately pushing their text complexity?
- Do you over-emphasize the teaching of standards at the expense of teaching the reader?
And, finally, here are some questions for literacy leaders who want to balance “school things” with the ultimate goal of creating life-long readers. (Note, these are questions I came up with to check and challenge myself on the topic).
- Do I balance my discussions topics with teachers (addressing school topics and life-long reading topics?)
- As a K-12 system, do we agree on the ultimate goal of teaching reading?
- How do I embed some of the 16 questions above in formal professional development settings?
- Is it reasonable to commit to bringing up at least one of these discussions with a teacher or group of teachers on a weekly basis?
- What challenges exist in our K-12 system that may hinder our end goal of creating life-long readers?
- Do my movers and shakers (teacher leaders) buy into and promote creating life-long readers?
For me, this all comes down to my belief about reading: Reading changes lives, makes us better people, and allows us to navigate life more effectively. I want this for our kids, not just during their school years, but beyond their time in a K-12 system. We have to think about what our kids need beyond our tests, our programs, our benchmarks and our interventions. All of that matters, but if we have not made a concerted effort to create life-long readers when they leave our system, perhaps we have failed in our ultimate goal.
This post is part of a book study around Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman (Stenhouse, 2018). Check out more resources associated with the text at this website (https://sites.stenhouse.com/literacyessentials/), including a free curriculum for teaching an undergraduate course using Literacy Essentials.