Ask me what I’m reading.
I have this posted on the wall in my reading classroom. I also had it put onto summer reading fun bracelets I handed out to students a couple of years ago. I really do mean it. If you don’t ask, I’m probably going to tell you anyway – after I ask what you are reading.
The idea came to me while doing beginning of the year reading assessments. I often chat with students who are new to our school to help quickly identify kids who might need support that aren’t on my list from the previous year. I always ask students what they are reading. The depth and rapidity of their answer seemed connected to where they fell on the reading development bell curve. Some would provide me an animated retell of their favorite book at home. Some would offer a vague description of what was on the cover because they couldn’t remember the name. There are many many reasons for that disparity in answers, but it sparked an idea that we could be the kind of school where every kid knew the answer to that question.
Being able to articulate a few sentences about whatever you’re reading is a skill I think young readers need. I think the question also presupposes that they are reading something they like. Because of course they are. I was hired by my current district 15 years ago to provide reading intervention in a K-5 school. Little did they (or I) know that 15 years later, I’d be providing intervention, and also running a robust Little Free Library out of half of my room where I connect with readers at recess because my room fronts the playground.
All manner of readers come to my small space during recess. Some just like to see what fun new things I’ve got on my shelves. Some love poring over past yearbooks. I’ve got a regular group of 1st graders who ask for a read aloud any day I can fit it in. Some like to sit in the camping chairs outside my door reading from a rotating collection of books outside my room. Some like to check out the display of what books are due to be released in the coming months. They come to connect about books. We talk not just about what they are reading now, but what they will be reading next.
In short, I’m working to create connections with students about books all day long. I’m not the only source of books on campus. I’m not even the only teacher in the school who reads and talks about the books students are reading. I’m just another avenue of access and engagement for our population of growing readers. Books help connect people. And when I listen to what they are reading, I can connect them with other books they might enjoy.
As an avid childhood reader myself, I have always tried to highlight the fun of reading even when teaching readers who struggled with grade level material. As a reading intervention teacher, I make sure to keep my eye on the prize – not just 8 year olds that read, but 80 year olds that read. How does my work contribute to a lifetime connection with stories? What can I do to increase the likelihood that when I see them around town as high school students they will still have an answer to the question:
What are you reading?
And here are a couple of ideas, if you’re looking for a book.
This is what I’m reading now. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. If you loved The Hate U Give, you’ll love this one as well. I’m about in the middle, and the complications of life outside of headlines are as tough as ever. Tough questions abound for Bri as she negotiates her own path through Garden Heights.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart is a story that will pull you in right away. Coyote and her dad, Rodeo have been on a 5 year road trip aboard their converted school bus, Yager. But Coyote needs to go home for something and Rodeo wants to keep moving forward. Serendipitous connections and wonderful characters.
Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers was really amusing to read aloud. Made 1st graders laugh out loud, could be easily enjoyed by readers up to at least 5th grade. Goofy story with lots of wordplay. And it’s a series.
Monkey & Cake: What Is Inside THIS Box? So excited to discover this new series for young readers. It’s my current go-to book for emergent readers who like to laugh and lower grade teachers who love a fun read aloud. Can’t wait to see more of them.