Top Ten Reasons I Choose To Read Poolside by Katherine Sokolowski
The last day of school has passed and summer has officially begun. That means it is time to fill up the pool bag, grab some sunscreen, a book, and head to our community pool. Many of my friends think I am crazy. Truly, my boys have reached the age where they could go on their own. And yet, I still go, almost daily, to the pool. You might be wondering why someone would subject themselves to bathing suits if was not forced upon them. Here are my top ten reasons I head to the pool to read during my summer vacation, even though I could easily do the same activity from the cool comfort of my couch.
- Time to Read
The most obvious benefit of reading almost daily poolside is that I plow through my to read stack. My plan each day of summer is to read a book a day. (Or #bookaday on Twitter). When I am at the pool, it is harder to do everything that can possibly distract me from reading at home (organizing, computer, cooking, eating, the list goes on.) At the pool I read, talk to others about books, and swim. My distractions are diminished and I can focus.
- A Chance for Conferences
One of my favorite parts of being at the pool is seeing my former students and continuing the reading conferences we had in the classroom. They will come over to my chair and give me the chance to talk books with them. I can help them through a tough book or just sit back and talk, reader to reader.
I am Catholic and sometimes reading and sitting poolside reminds me a bit of going to confession at church. While I have some former students who eagerly approach me to talk about what they are reading, several others either circle my chair with their eyes averted or come over with their head hanging to tell me they haven’t been reading. We often talk about why they think that is and I give them a suggestion to help them come back to the books they enjoy.
- Book Recommendations – for Them
A big part of a visit to my chair is for book recommendations. Luckily, reason 10 above means I have many new books to recommend. I try and read a wide variety of books, from middle grade through young adults, in all genres, so I have something to recommend to everyone.
- Book Recommendations – for Me
Just as often as kids arrive at my chair to ask for recommendations on what to read next, they also come to tell me about what they are reading. Many times, especially with my former students, I haven’t heard of the title. They will proceed to summarize it while I furiously type away on my phone so I can check it out later. I think it is so empowering for these kids to get to recommend a book to someone they know reads a lot and to have their recommendation taken seriously.
- Talk to Parents
While former students are my most frequent visitors at the pool, I do talk to parents while I am there as well. They come to ask advice on their children: from kids that haven’t been turned on to reading to kids that read everything they can get their hands on. I end up doing a lot of reassuring, giving some recommendations on how to develop reading habits, and handing out some reading recommendations as well.
- Advocate for Graphic Novels
While it has gotten easier over the last few years, I still have to convince some parents that graphic novels are “real reading.” It is for this reason that I tend to toss several into my pool bag each week. I like parents to see me reading them and we have conversations about them. Without question, when I am reading a graphic novel I will have more kids approach me that I don’t know to ask about it.
- Reading Role Model
In my own home, I know that having parents who read has been a part of creating two boys who read. I think the same is true for teachers. At the end of the school year I spoke a great deal with my students about the importance of reading over the summer and why I hoped they would do just that. I promised I would do the same. At the pool, and on Instagram, my students can see that I kept my promise. It makes me smile when I see them get out their town during adult swim, lean over to their bag, and pull out their own books. I know then they are hooked.
- My Own Little Free Library
For years I have wanted to install a Little Free Library in front of my house. I’ve debated and debated, and then realized I already have my own version of it. When I go to the pool, my bag is often carrying one or two books I’ve already read. I’ll hand them out to former students who come and talk to me if they think they will read them, and tell them to return them to me later. Or, upon recommending a book I know I have at home, I will tell kids I will leave it for them on my front porch and they can pick it up at their convenience. I love the immediacy of being able to talk to a child, recommend a book, and say, “Here, why don’t you borrow this?” all while being splashed from someone going off the diving boards.
- Always Their Teacher
When my students leave me each June, it is often with a few tears. I tell them each year that I am not their teacher only for fifth grade, but I am their teacher for life. Reading at our community pool allows me to show them that I mean that. I love to talk to my students about what they are reading – and writing. I also talk to them about what is going on, give them advice, or sometimes just a hug. Being present in their life, at the spot they all hang out, brings us closer, long after I had them in my class. It is my favorite part of summer.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for fifteen years and currently teaches fifth grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.