Celebrate Reading Stories

The book was splayed open, face down on his desk.  He was busily doodling in his notebook. I wandered over and asked, why did you put the book down?

He responded with a shoulder shrug, eyes half hidden under long dark bangs.

The question wasn’t intended to be pointing out a wrong or to get him “on task” in reading workshop. He wasn’t in trouble, although he may have thought so, me, being his reading teacher. I was just wondering.

We talked. He was tired. The book wasn’t holding him. Perhaps it never did.

Why did you put that book down, is an interesting question. One that might be worth study, not judgment.

There are plenty of books I put down. Some I pick up again at a later date. Some I don’t. There are some that fit me at the moment and then lose me halfway through. Is there something wrong with me as a reader? With the book?

I thought I felt free to stop a book when I pleased.  With no penalties. But, I realize, every time I abandon or finish a book, I build a narrative that says, I’m the kind of reader who …

Every time I read, I create my reading identity. We all do. And this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s worth reflection

I ask my students to figure out their reading stories: who they are as readers.

There are some who rattle off those genres and books. And there are those who struggle. They have a scared reading identity. They’d rather not look. They’d rather give a shoulder shrug or an answer you want to hear.  To make you go away.

I think we need to stay. And ask.

The end of the year is a time for asking. Time to assess our teaching of reading and a time for students to reflect on their reading in ways that build understanding; our sense of who we are as teachers of reading and as readers.

We need to ask questions of our reading this year. Reflect on reading practices. What made you proud as a reader as well as what was your biggest fail; what surprised you and what kept your attention; what took you to another place and what made you forget your troubles; what helped you keep going and what made you put the book down.

The answers add up to a reader’s story right now. The good and the bad. Students need to know who they are as readers and look for reasons why, so they can grow. Teachers need to know and understand what helped students and what fell short so they can sharpen their practice. We both need to take note, adjust and develop.

My shoulder shrugging student has a reading narrative he can’t articulate without coaching. So before we close out the school year, we’re going to look closely at our reading lives to figure out who we are right now.  And celebrate our reading stories.

Read more celebrations on Ruth Ayers blog, Discover Play Build.

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