Reading: What One Thing Do You Want?

What one thing do you want your students to walk away with next June?

Amidst the overwhelming, ever-growing list of teacher mandated to-dos, what matters most?

What will keep the focus and the joy?

This year I’m defining the one thing by subject area, I want for my kiddos to own when they leave me.

To start off the year I thought  I wanted my students to have the ability to find a book to read for joy and/or learning. If students have this ability (that includes access and ability), I theorized, they will read. And with that, all else, thinking, imagining, articulating, understanding, citizenship will follow.

But this week I revised my thinking.

Many students see reading as schoolwork.

Last Friday, we sat together, as a class, at the end of reading talking about our reading goals for the three-day weekend, and over the hubbub, I heard, “My parents don’t want me to read on the weekends.”

What? I thought.
And, this picture emerges in my head:
“Honey, you know how we’ve told you to limit your reading on the weekends. Put that book down, let’s have some family time.”
Or maybe it was like this:
“Homework on the weekends? Oh no, this is family time.”

“Wait.” I say, “let’s talk about this. Reading on the weekends should be about joy and entertainment.” And we go on to talk about ways reading can go. I ask them to revise their plans. Don’t do the partner work, read that funny, scary, silly book and just enjoy.

Even after that conversation, I know I it will take more.

Today, a few stayed on the carpet to say they didn’t meet their commitment over the weekend. Perhaps we need to revise our work for the weekends. Revise our commitment to our partners and enjoy books differently.

The work goes on to define what readers do and how these readers in my classroom need to read.
There are those that read because they love it.
And there are those that read because they are told to.
Attitudes and abilities have been created over the years

And here’s one conundrum.
By telling students, reading is homework, do we confuse the idea of reading for joy?

Reading that is constrained to school can limit. When it becomes the thing your mom makes you do and your teacher has you respond to in writing, it is a chore and a burden. And if that’s how students see reading, I have let my students down.

Students need to learn how to dig for a theme, notice character action and write about reading because it makes them better readers. Better at understanding texts that can open their minds and change their lives. Deep thinking around reading is necessary to create our future leaders, thinkers, and doers. At the same time, and of equal importance, our students need a reading life that lives in joy and entertainment. Both are necessary.

We make time for this in the classroom. There is time designed for reading that is that for free, easy, and joyful consumption. Be it Dogman, Minecraft, or Harry Potter. There is dedicated time to dive into pure reading joy.

And we make time for deep thinking and writing about reading with partners, goals, and objectives. Because this, as my students report, helps them see more than they did before.

When my students leave my room next June, I want them to have a reading life that is lives where no one is watching; when they choose to find books that allow the pure joy of loving a book. And I want them to walk away knowing that there are times that digging deeply into text delivers a different kind of joy. One that expands their mind and connects with another.

What do you want your students to walk away with at the end of the year?