One of the hardest things I have to do as a teacher is to tell that kid to stop reading and start listening. You know the ones. They have furtively slipped a book onto their lap, and as I drone on about figurative language or vocabulary rules or narrative arc, they are immersed completely in a world of their own. I’ll look over at these kids and think: that was me. I was one of those readers, too.
Sometimes, I just let them read. Why not? While I am confident I have a lot of advice and knowledge to impart on my students (what teacher doesn’t have grand images of themselves?), I figure that the writer in that book they are reading just might have something more important to say to them.
I remember my own youth with books and books, piled high in my bedroom, and on the bookshelves and, well, just about everywhere. And my mother, in particular, bringing me to the town library on a regular basis. Finances were tight, so new books were rare for us. But the library was like a treasure trove of stories, and it was one of the most exciting journeys of the week to head out for an hour to the children’s room of the town library.
Then, it was back home, reading until sleep came over me. I remember sitting in classrooms the following day, wondering what was going on in the lives of the characters of the books I had stopped reading. Were they living beyond the margins that I could see? I still wonder about that magical possibilities, don’t you? So, I would sit there, blocking out the drone of my teacher, and sometimes, I would pull out my book, hide it on my lap or on the inside of my notebook or binder, and I would just read.
So when I see my own students doing the same thing, I feel for them. All too often, we teachers drive the love of reading out of our students with over-analysis and picking apart words and phrases and characters. Sometimes, we just have to let them read.