Two Confessions and a Pledge of a Teacher Mom by Elisa Waingort
My son carries a book with him wherever he goes. If he doesn’t have a book handy, he carries around my Kindle instead, which he has aptly named “Nini and Mami’s Kindle.” (Nini is our family nickname for him.)
My son has read the entire Harry Potter series several times and he claims Jonathan Auxier as one of his favourite authors. He looks forward to my coming home after NCTE conferences because he knows I will be loaded down with new books from his favourite series or new-to-him authors. But my son doesn’t only read print and digital books. He also spends a good deal of time reading on the Internet. And, this is often a conundrum for me.
As a parent and a teacher I have always believed that children’s access to books and digital resources should not be censored or limited by adults…except in the case of my child. Now, this is not a situation of it’s-OK-for-everyone-else’s-kid-except-my-own, but I am finding that my soon-to-be 10-year-old is being exposed to many things on the Internet he doesn’t understand, mostly because of his age. So, I’ve started using parental controls on our screens at home. I don’t want to police everything that he reads there because, truth be told, most of the time he is learning amazing things; he is a very curious and resourceful kid. So, confession #1: I sometimes censor what my child reads because my instincts as a parent and teacher tell me it’s the right thing to do for HIM. However, this is making me reflect on how I might handle similar situations in the classroom, including why it’s important to know my students well and to maintain close communication between home and school.
My son has gone through many phases as a reader and viewer – Dora the Explorer, Titanic, Harry Potter, Roald Dahl, among others. He uses the Internet to read and quench his curiosity about his current obsession, which ranges from movies, books and music. (He is currently becoming an expert on all things related to The Beatles.) He knows an incredible amount of facts and trivia about many topics that make for extended dinner conversations and further research on his part. I’m surprised he hasn’t been investigating about earthquakes, tremors and aftershocks since we’ve been experiencing these here in Quito over the past week. Maybe he has and we’re sure to find out what he’s uncovered soon enough.
I also worry about my son’s pile of to read books. Although he is capable of reading books by authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, the topics are too mature for his current level of social development. So, confession #2: I have not been very successful lately at recommending a new series or author to my son. Instead he continues to reread all of the other books that he loves and has read multiple times before: Harry Potter, Big Nate, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid are current favourites. Although rereading is highly commendable, I also think he would benefit from expanding his reading repertoire. (Maybe there’s a reading gap challenge in his future.) And, as I think about my new students, I worry that I might not be able to make effective book recommendations.
Despite my worries and frustrations about not being able to read enough to support all of my students, I will not give up even if it takes me all year to find that one book that will hook a reader for life. I plan to turn to Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild often this year as I reflect on how to guide all of my students to become wild readers. I welcome any and all book recommendations for middle school readers in the comments section. And, if you know of a true and tried series that I can introduce to my son, please share that also. Many thanks!
Elisa Waingort has been teaching for close to 30 years in a variety of settings in North and South America. Currently she is starting a new assignment teaching Language Arts and Social Studies to 6th and 7th graders at Academia Cotopaxi, an International School in Quito, Ecuador. Elisa always has a book or her Kindle at hand…just in case. You can find her online at ateachersruminations.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @elisaw5.