We celebrated Read Across America yesterday afternoon at school. There were a lot of different activities going on across my building, a 3-8 center. Some of my kids were reading to the primary grades. Other middle schoolers were creating podcasts about Dr. Seuss and reading in general. Several “press” teams came to interview me about how I felt about reading. Every team explained that they thought I’d be the best person in the building to talk about reading. What a compliment! The kids were defining me by my reading. Yeah!
Each team ended up asking me the same set of questions: What do I think of reading? Why do I read? What is my favorite book and why is it my favorite? It was a switching of roles that the kids hadn’t really considered, I think. When I explained that I wouldn’t be who I am without being a reader, it made the interviewers pause. They’d never thought of it that way before. Then I turned the tables and asked the kids the same questions. What did they think of reading? One of the kids replied that they never think about reading! And these are kids that read- sometimes 40-50 books a year. When I asked them why, they didn’t know. Which gave me pause.
How do we keep the spirit of Read Across America going in class every day? I don’t have time to make bookmarks and Sneetches tree pencil toppers as a daily part of my class. I have state standards, and test prep and district benchmarks to prepare for. My kids have to be ready to take the interview tests for the PreIB program next year. So how do I keep my eye on the bottom line, the purpose for all of our literacy instruction- that I want kids to think of themselves as readers and writers? That we want them to value reading and writing as avenues of power and empowerment, as a way to self-knowledge? And this brings me back to the first question the press team asked. What do you think of reading? What is the best way to help the kids see that the answer to that question is that they should see themselves?