Seeing It For Myself – Top Ten Things I Have Observed as Young Readers Are Given Choice by Jami Spaulding
Crystal was leaning against a pillow in our 1st grade classroom, reading a non-fiction book that was certainly far above her lexile. As I sat down beside her, I noticed she was crying. These tears were not sad; instead they were tears of relief and joy as she whispered, “I’m really reading!” When I met Crystal at open house a few months before, she was crying for a different reason – because she couldn’t read. That summer before we met and I moved to first grade, I had read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and Debbie Miller’s Reading with Meaning. I was confident that by creating an authentic reading environment and giving young readers a lot of choice, they would all learn to read. As I wiped her tears that August day I said, “Don’t worry, sweet girl; you are a reader.” As I handed her a Kleenex just a few months later, she looked at me and said, “I really am a reader!” That moment is forever cemented in my mind and provides me the courage and inspiration to keep offering young readers choice. Below are 10 things I have observed as young readers are given the opportunity to choose what they read.
Choice shifts the power. When a younger reader is given the opportunity to choose what they read, the experience goes from one forced on them by an adult to one they decided to participate in.
Choice relieves the pressure. Learning to read can be very stressful, especially in a situation where all your peers are reading the same book and you are constantly comparing yourself. Choice removes the pressure of reading a certain book the “right” way, and allows a reader to relax and enter into a reading experience.
Choice provides authentic motivation. When a reader has selected a book for themselves, they are highly motivated to read it, simply because they want to.
Choice communicates respect. Allowing a young student to have a voice in what they are reading, communicates that they are known as an individual and that their ideas matter.
Choice creates confidence. Young readers long to know that their teacher believes in them and giving them choice allows them to feel like they are capable of conquering whatever story they have chosen.
Choice gives validity to the learning process of each reader. As students read through a book they have chosen, they are provided the opportunity to engage in the process of reading in a way that is natural for them.
Choice develops reading skills naturally. Often, young readers are so proud of their new ability that they want to read the same books over and over, as they do this their fluency and intonation grow in a way that is natural.
Choice creates a thriving reading environment. In a classroom where readers are allowed to select what they are reading, all students read a lot and that experience builds a solid foundation for their reading skills to grow on.
Choice increases teachable moments. As a teacher sits beside a young reader, who is highly motivated to read a book they have chosen, the teacher is able to give quick and specific instruction that the student can apply immediately
Choice builds life-long readers. Readers who are respected from the beginning of their reading life are readers who keep reading.
Jami Spaulding is a life-long learner and lover of books. She has taught nearly every elementary grade level in a variety of settings and is currently an elementary librarian. She loves helping kids discover their unique voices and connecting them to great books. Her favorite job is raising her own three readers. You can follow her on twitter at @jamibookmom.