So the best thing happened yesterday…all by accident!
Yesterday was the day before Thanksgiving break. The kids finally earned their hot chocolate party with their class points and we had an on-campus field trip scheduled in the morning. In addition, we had a spelling test and a math test to get through before it was time for our Friday Town Hall assembly. Basically, there was much to do and lots of excitement in the air.
Since most of the excitment was happening all before lunch, unfortunately (but fortunately for me) that left for the spelling and math test after lunch. Grrrreat. I was looking forward to the quiet time, but knew it wouldn’t last long. Knowing our freedom was a mere 2 hours away, I figured the second they finished their tests I’d be swarmed with a bunch of grumpy 5th graders.
I was wrong! So. Very. Wrong.
Shocked in fact! After about 35 minutes after distributing the math test, I took a scan of my room. About 4 kids still working away at adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators, and what were the other 26 doing you ask? READING!
Not whispering to their neighbor asking what time it was. Not raising their hand, begging to go to the bathroom. Not trying to sneak in time to draw a picture. READING!
It was the most amazing thing. And what did those 4 kids eventually do when they finished their test? They read too!
Because it’s cool to read in my class!
Ahhhhhh! I can’t really express the feeling that I got in that moment. It was so awesome!
For the past two months or so, I’ve really been talking to my students about reading. About picking books that aren’t necessarily the easy ones or the ones that are popular in the bookstores like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But about reading books that are good fits for them, and are stories that they actually like.
We started plain and simple. With a poster that says, Books We Can’t Put Down. And from there, they just started adding titles and titles. Part of the hype was the fact that they could claim bragging rights by proudly writing their name next to the title.
Then I told them I basically don’t care what they do during Reading Workshop, known to them as Daily 5. I told them, “All I care is that you are reading and writing.”
At first I figured they’d do the age old trick of opening a book and just staring at the words to “look” like they are reading. But really, now, when you look, they really are reading. And they are standing in my library corner returning a book, not because they are sick of their last selection, but because it’s finished.
Ahhhhhh. Awesome-ness, I tell you! It’s such a crazy feeling!
One of my students wrote in her Home School Journal (a family/school communication notebook we do each week), “Mom, I’m reading The Westing Game. It’s my first mystery! It’s so good!” Ha!! Caught you bragging about what you’re reading! Without anyone asking you to! SO COOL!
The best part about this is that I’m fostering something in my classroom, that, sadly, none of my teachers ever really did for me. I never really had anyone inspire me to read and that it was cool to read anything. My mom took me to the library quite often, but I always found myself coming home with a stack of books that I never really ended up reading.
When I was young, Goosebumps and the Christopher Pike books were popular. Well, I never even liked these books. But because it was “cool” to read these, I just zoomed through the words as quick as possible so that I could appear “cool” reading them. But did these books inspire me? Not really. Did they inspire me to keep reading other books? Not really.
So I’ve found myself as an adult, wishing that I was an avid reader. I’m not. In fact, I’m a slow reader and I’m a picky reader. It takes me forever to select a book, and then even longer to actually finish the book. (Unless you count The Help, which I finished in the course of 3 days. Good book!) I could make you a list of some of my favorite books I’ve read, but it’s a very short list. And the sad thing, is when I recall my “favorite childhood books” that list is even shorter.
I feel a little behind on the times, because it’s hard for me to recommend some of the classics or Newberry authors simply because I’ve never read those books. So, silly as it sounds, I’ve now found myself reading kid chapter books, just so that I can recommend them to my kids. So far, my favorites include From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Wayside School is Falling Down, and Stargirl.
It’s a magic thing, when a kid trusts your reading judgement.
On my run this morning, I was recalling the beauty of this realization. This whole idea that kids can feel cool when they sit down with a book and read. Because I know the feeling they get – putting their name on our class poster, finishing book after book, talking with me and their classmates about the books they read – that feeling will stay with them (hopefully) and reading with just become that habit or hobby I never had. And to me, that’s a pretty cool thing.
What was the book you read as a kid and couldn’t put down?