AN EDUCATOR’S READING WISH by Laural Matthews
As a child, I can remember how books were always a part of my life. I can remember sitting down with my family and obsessively finding the Lowly Worm in the Richard Scarry books. Or reading Goodnight Moon to the point of parental exhaustion and boredom. I can remember a grade 4 classroom where my teacher created a loft where we climbed a ladder to the book nook. Or sneaking John Saul and Stephen King into my reading life at an early age, despite it causing nightmares! I can remember how important that weekly trip to the library was. Or how, to this day, I love picking out my next book.
My reading life was full and engaging and this has led to a pure passion and joy for reading today.
I write about the moments in my life that fostered a love of reading because, as an educator, it is the one area that I believe we must get better at and not waiver from – a wish for all our students to need and create a passion for reading.
Reading for pleasure should be at the top of our list as educators. This is confirmed by a number of great resources, including a professional resource The Art of Slow Reading by Thomas Newkirk. He asks great questions that I believe we should all think about:
What is reading?
What is it for?
What function should or can it have in our lives?
If I think about these questions with myself in mind, it sounds simple, but I genuinely love reading. Words have a way of calming me when I am frustrated or anxious. Words have a way of removing me from my reality, even if just for a moment. Words have a way of challenging my thinking and enhancing my knowledge or leaving an imprint on my soul. Literature has this undeniably beautiful way of connecting me to others in, and outside of my life.
Penny Kittle’s quote “If students are not reading with us, they are not reading without us” is direct and true. Of all the students I ask, the majority of them will say they do not read beyond the walls of the school; a common theme that even emerges among adults. So how do we ensure we rekindle our love for books as adults and create lifelong readers in our students?
I would argue that we must foster a pleasure for reading first, and it must become our goal. When students are flooded with literature and have role models who demonstrate and share a love for reading, so to will our students. We must constantly be reflecting and assessing our teaching practices to ensure a tipping towards passion, yet hold on to specific goals for the how to of reading. Reading has withstood the test of time and is an integral part of enhancing the lives of our students and ourselves.
As a child, I did not choose to read because I was told to; I choose to read because my reading life has evolved in a way that brings me joy and the people within my life understood it as a necessity. This too, we can give to our students and that is my reading wish.
Laural Matthews is an elementary instructional coach in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She maintains a professional blog The Mobile Educator on WordPress and can be found on Twitter @matthewsl2014.