My Kids Hate Reading!
I grew up in a house filled with books, magazines, newspapers, and print of all kinds. We read every day, but Sundays were my favorite. We spent the day covering the living room in newspaper pages, sale flyers, and the funny papers. We would trade pages back and forth, talk about articles, wipe ink smudges from each other’s noses, and laugh while we learned a million new things.
I was read to all the time. My mom started reading Tolkien to me when I was three. For several months I pretended that our kitchen was a restaurant called The Hobbit Hotel. I was even convinced that my dad was a Hobbit. My mom still laughs about the time that I asked her, “Is our Popi a Hobbit? He is very short and has quite a lot of fur on his toes.” We read Narnia, Little House, everything Judy Blume wrote. We still get absolutely hysterical if either of us mentions Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s insane adventures. I saw my parents reading. My mom read novels, cookbooks, magazines, and just about anything near her. My dad read the newspaper daily. He also read several magazines for work and for fun. We were a Nerdy Book Club family.
When I became a teacher, I couldn’t wait to share my love of books with students. My sixth graders were excited about reading. Even those who didn’t come from reading homes. They loved to go to theMediaCenterand check out books. They would lean forward with wide eyes when I read to them. I spent hundreds of dollars that I really couldn’t spare on books for my classroom library. I handed out Scholastic book order forms so I could get more books for them to devour. We signed up for reading competitions and talked books at lunch and in the halls. My sixth graders were reading like crazy. It was awesome. I was a teacher who had some sort of reading super power, and I was changing the world!
When I made the move to eighth grade, things started to change. My kids didn’t want to read. They didn’t love books the way I did or the way my sixth graders had. There was no convincing them. Reading competitions? No way. They would say things like, “But Miss, I don’t like reading.” or “Awww, Jablonski, come on. I have better things to do than to read a book.”
Nothing seemed to work. Readingwasn’t happening. I was about to declare that there was just no book love going on in room 314, call my mom, and have a good cry. I was almost convinced that my magical reading super powers were gone for good. My heart was melting.
I wanted my kids to love reading. I had to find new ways to connect my kids with good books. I hit Twitter and started reading educational and book blogs. I connected with authors any way I could. I even started my own blogs to share with readers, writers, and educators. I hung out on Goodreads, Tumblr, and Pinterest trying to find ways to inspire my students. I brought in the latest and greatest in YA and placed them all over the classroom. I tweeted with authors, bloggers, and teachers and showed the students how much the YA community loved them.
A few weeks in, I started to notice some curious things. My shelves were almost empty. When I put books on the board or on display, they’d be gone by the end of the day. The sign on my classroom door, “Jablonski is Reading . . . “got glances. I’d hear some of my most adamant non-readers asking each other about the books I was reading. Sometimes they’d throw me a glance or nod to the sign and ask, “Any good?” I’d see kids strolling by to see what I was reading or run in room during class change and grab a book or two. They were also starting to read more than the sports pages or look at prom dresses ads we went to the MediaCenter. They were even excited about reading The Outsiders in class. I’d hear screams of “Greasers!” as they walked to their busses. Something was happening.Reading was happening!
Here’s what I started to understand. My kids ARE readers. They are just undercover readers. They do love to connect with books and words, just in a different way. Finding books that they love is the key.
A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, The Dust of 100 Dogs, Please Ignore Vera Dietz blew their minds. However, they would never admit it.
Matt de la Pena’s Mexican White Boy, We Were Here, and I Will Save You made them gasp thinking the books were written for them.
John Green’s Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars made them cry and think about the world with new eyes.
Tupac Shakur’s poetry and Jay-Z’s Decoded help them to realize that they were worth so much more than just what “thug-life” told them they could be.
I told them how crazy Perks of Being a Wallflower was and they devoured it.
We tweeted with Tom Angleberger about the awesome of Origami Yoda & Darth Paper and he drew us a picture. They pretended not to care, but they smiled as they pointed it out to their friends.
I showcased If I Stay and Where She Went and had to buy multiple copies that same night for fear of book brawls.
Tahereh Mafi, Lauren DeStefano, Heather Brewer, Jay Asher, and other amazing authors became a new kind of hero. There was epic stuff happening in room 314.
So, yeah, maybe my kids say they don’t read, but I know the truth. I’ll keep supplying amazing books, they’ll keep reading them, and I’ll never tell a soul. Except my Nerdy Book Club friends, of course. *wink*
Mandee Jablonski teaches 8th grade English/Language Arts outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She lives with her husband David and their two feisty meows, Yankee and Shakespeare. They are all proud lifetime members of the Nerdy Book Club. When she isn’t reading, trying to get someone to read, or at the library, you can find her online sharing her love of books at www.booksandbling.com and on Twitter @ohmandee. She can also be found sharing her love of education at www.literacyeverywhere.com and on Twitter @liteverywhere. She’d love to hear your inspirational reading stories.