cyberpd 2014 #2: Reading in the Wild

cyber PD                          reading-in-the-wild

The 4th annual summer#cyberPD conversation about Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild continues today, hosted by:

Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone(@litlearningzone)

Cathy Mere at  Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community (@CathyMere)

Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate (@LauraKomos)

Today’s focus: Chapters 3 and 4.

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading With Other Readers

As a wild reader, I know that part of what makes my reading heart beat faster is the act of sharing what I’ve just read and so enjoyed.  And, as a teacher, few things give me greater pleasure than to see my kids engaged in conversations about the books they’ve read, or to see a student go on a book hunt for a classmate, saying: “You have GOT to read this!”  I marked up the following passage from Chapter 3 with a giant “Yes!” in the margins, because I thought Donalyn got right to the heart of addressing something so vital to having classrooms in which there is a community built around the appreciation of reading and sharing reading lives:

“What my students need to learn is important, but the conditions that allow learning to happen concern me more.  Successful learning communities require cultivation, and I spend a lot of time forging relationships with my students and helping them connect to each other.  While standards and learning targets dictate the content I must teach, I am the one who – with the help of my students – constructs the classroom environment.  How my students and I interact creates a climate that supports learning and provides social and emotional safety.” (p.89)

A classroom environment that fosters wild reading includes:

* a school-wide reading community in which everyone is united around the belief that investing time in reading and then sharing the wealth of that reading experience is a worthy goal.  Most of my conversations with students (past and present) always include some version of:  “So, what are you reading these days?” It seems such a natural turn in our discussion because so much of our time together is spent cultivating a reading community.  But Donalyn describes something much more powerful, because it extends beyond the walls of one classroom to include the entire school.

I believe that our students need to see each of us as readers.  They need to see teachers talking about books with each other, meeting for books groups just as they do, and charting our own “Books I Have Read and Recommend” lists.  They need to see books piled up on our desks and spilling out of our book bags, they need to know that when we say, “Reading is so important!” we are actually practicing what we preach.

*we can’t ask our kids to devote time to reading after school and then pile on  busy work in the guise of  homework.  Like everyone else, I struggle with what to assign for homework and how to make the assignments meaningful.  I know that every homework assignment is one more barrier to reading time once my student gets home, and this is an ever shifting balancing act.  Again, Donalyn is so right in pointing out that this should be a school – wide conversation:

Teachers must talk with grade level colleagues across subject areas to determine the total homework load for their students and consider hen students will read at home.  Research proves that students’ ability to read well affects their performance in every class (Krashen, 2004); therefore, all teachers, not just those in the English department, must commit to schoolwide literacy initiatives and support students’ reading development.

No matter how judicious I may be in assigning homework because I want my kids to read, I will be defeated in this endeavor if everyone from their home ec to their gym teacher assigns homework in my place!

*sometimes we need to get out of their way.  I loved the way Donalyn wrote about this:

If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way…While we need to stay informed about what they read and remain connected to our students, we don’t need to participate in every discussion or endorse every book.  If students depend on our validation for every book they read, they aren’t reading for their own purposes and needs.

I am not a fan of some of the books my kids choose to read, but sometimes I just need to remember Donalyn’s dictum and trust that my kids are reading what they need to read.  I had a student once who read and re-read Joan Bauer’s Hope Was Here because it helped her sort through some private turmoil, ditto for the student who did the same for See You At Harry’s, or the one who was (it seemed) permanently attached to Pretty Little Liars.  We want our kids to turn to books to find solace and entertainment, and sometimes that is private, quite separate from the reading lives they choose to share with us.  I want my kids to feel empowered in their reading choices, so I must know when to step back and let them lead.

Chapter 5:

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a reading plan – I try to be organized bout this (neatly compiled reading lists) but often the plan is just a stack of post its I’ve compiled from the “It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading” post on Jen Vincent’s fabulous blog, Teach Mentor Texts.  All my strong readers have plans, too – they are always one step ahead, thinking about what’s next.  Like me, they never want to find themselves in a situation where they are, heaven forbid, without a book to read!

I love that Donalyn spent so much of this chapter sharing insights and ways in which we can help our kids develop reading plans.  Even more important is the consideration of these two questions:

*How do students develop ownership for reading when they are never given ownership?

*Who are students reading for?

Assigning book after book, or spending too long on one assigned book get in the way of our students having the freedom to cull together a list of books that speak to them, and organizing that list into a reading plan.  But, this wild reading habit is a product of intentional teaching – we need to scaffold the process and validate the effort it takes to have that reading plan: book reviews, recommendation rituals, book trailers, places to keep a running “books I want to read” list – all of these provide the structure our kids need to create , maintain, and follow through with reading plans.

Finally – personal reading canons. What a fabulous idea!  Donalyn spoke of this at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat, and she had the room buzzing with excitement as each of us tried to construct our own.  It became, at that meoment, suddenly very important to each of us to do this, because (I think) we realized the intrinsic value of such a canon – and what it reflected about each of us in a deeply personal way.  What a gift it is to begin to plant the seeds in our kids for the same, so that they will be aware of books that carry a deep and abiding personal value!

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “cyberpd 2014 #2: Reading in the Wild

  1. Tara,
    Thanks for highlighting some quotes that I needed to re-consider again. That’s the great part about #CyberPD, it helps me re-think what I’ve read and focuses my attention on different ideas. What you highlighted here “What my students need to learn is important, but the conditions that allow learning to happen concern me more… While standards and learning targets dictate the content I must teach, I am the one who – with the help of my students – constructs the classroom environment” shows how important the thoughtful creation of environment is to the learning process. Not just furniture and paint, but relationships and expectations. That takes just as much, if not more, advance planning than moving desks and making bulletin boards.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Suz

  2. I agree (with everything you said!) I really appreciated the story she told of ruining a book for boys in her class by reading it and trying to discuss it with them. I forget the title now, but it was a book with naughty bits and she ruined it for them by taking an interest. We really do have so much influence on what our students read!

    I’m really interested in helping to develop a school-wide reading community. I’m trying to think about how to do that. I’ve been in schools where some teachers pass books back and forth, and where some frequently have a “little free library” table in the staff room where they trade books. I love this!

  3. Donalyn certainly has me buzzing, especially about doing more school-wide, Tara. I wrote about it in my post, the librarians and I have met, & have some beginning plans. Now I need to get them to read this books! Thanks for your response, too. I love this part: “They need to see books piled up on our desks and spilling out of our book bags, they need to know that when we say, “Reading is so important!” we are actually practicing what we preach.” So, so true. And I wonder how to get those teachers to understand how important it is!

  4. I love the quotes you pulled.
    Two things hit me as essential when I read your post:
    1) who are they ready for? and 2) get out of the way.
    I think I need to focus so much more on valuing the creation of their reading lives. There are those books they love that I have a hard time reading. But I’m good with that. I’m just so happy when books get hijacked and can’t be found because there is an underground sharing network!

  5. You said, “As a wild reader, I know that part of what makes my reading heart beat faster is the act of sharing what I’ve just read and so enjoyed.” I think for me it is the ability to talk with others about something I’ve read. Discussing a character with someone is like having a mutual friend.

    I appreciate the way you weave the important points from the reading into your classroom. You have highlighted some essential quotes from the text that are worthy of considering.

    Cathy

  6. I loved the part about a reading canon as well. It’s so hard to pick all the books that I hold close to my heart, there’s so many. It’s sad that it isn’t the case for all readers.
    I can imagine the importance of talking about homework across the entire school, especially at your level with having so many classes! Our building is K-4 and we’ve had a lot of controversy on this subject. There is discussion on rereading vs choice reading. If we don’t assign reading and have some sort of part that is signed/gone over by parents are we losing accountability… Lots of discussion, lots of opinions.

  7. Great suggestions and reflections, and I think you are exactly right that homework needs to be a school-wide conversation. I always encourage my students to “read everyday,” but when I tried to make it explicit for them it was amazing how many excuses they had for why they could not find a half-an-hour in their after school lives – and they are that over-scheduled as third graders!

  8. We love the question you ask past and present students, “So what have you been reading lately?” This question sends such an important message about what matters. It is also a perfect opening to a great conversation about books.

    We think the conversations about homework are important for everyone in the school to discuss. We need to make homework much more meaningful for students and to look at what is being assigned by each grade level. This way schools can make decisions about homework that reflect their school goals.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections with us. We are loving this #CYBER PD

  9. Tara,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! What really struck me was this paragraph…

    “We want our kids to turn to books to find solace and entertainment, and sometimes that is private, quite separate from the reading lives they choose to share with us. I want my kids to feel empowered in their reading choices, so I must know when to step back and let them lead.”

    So incredibly powerful!!

Thank you for reading my blog! Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s