Celebrate with Ruth Ayres Writes …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.
Today serves as a mid-marker of sorts, as of today, I will have been out of school on summer break for exactly one month…with exactly one month to go. When anyone asks me what I’ve been up to over the past weeks, the first thing that comes to mind is reading. I have read more over the past four weeks than over the last six months!
This is not to say that all I have been doing is reading, but I am amazed at the pace I’ve been able to keep without losing either the energy or the enthusiasm for reaching for another book the moment I finish what is currently at hand.
Of course, my summer reading has me thinking about the new school year and the readers who will be walking into Room 202 at the beginning of September. What am I learning about my own reading life that can be put to use for them?
Choice, yet pre-selection: Although I could choose to read whatever I wanted and in whichever order I preferred, every book in my TBR pile (whether YA or middle grade or for professional development) was pre-selected carefully, based on reviews or word of mouth. This meant that I could count on each reading experience to be a pleasurable one, some more than others to be sure, but not one of them a disappointment – each good reading experience fed the desire for another. This is what I want for our classroom library as well: it must be consistently good, carefully selected, every read a worthwhile one.
Communities of reading and responding: some of my books were “book group books” and some were ones I read on my own. But, even in the case of the latter, I had a group to share my thoughts with, enthuse and mull over, problem solve and commiserate with. Our conversations helped spur rich questions and thinking that I would not have had if I had read alone. This makes me think that in addition to book groups that meet when we do our genre studies, when each group is reading the same text, I should build in some time every week for just “book turn and talks” about whatever it is that my kids are reading.
Latitude in how to respond: There was great freedom in my book groups to find our own ways in which to respond, and to experiment with each response. We sketch noted, jotted, drew webs, asked questions and wrote long, and in the process we learned new ways of note taking and communicating ideas. I want my sixth graders to have this freedom and flexibility as well, which means that I will have to plan for it both in terms of modeling/sharing example as well as assessment.
A sense of responsibility: We trusted the process, purpose, and value of our reading communities, and felt an obligation to show up prepared each time we participated, so our conversations were always meaningful; best of all, they always pushed our thinking. In my “share whatever you’re reading” group, we could not wait to tell each other (across many miles and a time zone) what had moved us, made us laugh, brought us to tears: it didn’t matter that we did not have a book in common, all that counted was the rich experience we just had to share. Of course, I would love to see more of this joyful sense of responsibility with my kiddos as well. I think I will begin laying the groundwork by simply speaking of my summer experiences and how much the fact that others took their reading lives seriously impacted my own desire to show up prepared.
Time: Well, this one needs no explanation. I have time to read and I am making the most of it. But, all of the above ensure that I am using this gift of time to read. And, for my students, time in our classroom comes down to one person – me. It’s my responsibility to toss aside anything that gets in the way of large blocks of time for my kids to read/confer/share. That’s on me.
So, this “mid-marker Saturday”, I celebrate all the reading done, the reading to come, for myself…and for those soon to be Smithlings.