I learned something last week. Some people, apparently, think that the expectation that kids read daily is busy work. Let me tell you, when someone recently told me this, I had to stop my jaw from hitting the floor. The term busy work implies there’s no importance to an activity. In a million years, I would never, ever EVER associate reading with something that has no value.
Anyone who thinks that there isn’t value in reading does not understand the consequences of not being a competent reader. Let me tell you, they are vast, disheartening, and disturbing.
The idea that reading daily is busy work because it’s not valuable and not tied to a grade is ludicrous! I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY? I firmly believe that we have to help our kids develop a sense of intrinsic satisfaction for their accomplishments. We also have to help them see the value in learning for learning’s sake. How else do we motivate them to take responsibility for their own choices? How else do we inspire a generation of people to think and be problem solvers?
I had a parent tell me this week that they’ve tried punishment and bribery to get their child to read, and neither work. Well, of course not. Because neither of those consequences actually inspired the kid to engage with a book. Their time and energy would have been better spent trying to find something–anything–for that kid to read that resonated with him. He’s more turned off reading now than ever before because he sees it as a chore, something that he needs to be coerced into doing.
I’ve posed a 30 book challenge for my students this year. In the process, I’ve avoided answering the question: “What happens if we don’t get to 30 books? Will we fail?” My response has been, “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be just fine!” And they will. Sure, there are some kids who, after the first 6 weeks, aren’t really reading or trying, but the vast majority are. We’re doing book inventories so they can learn the process of choosing interesting-to-them books. We’re getting ready to start book talks. They’ll be blogging about their books.
Building a community of readers is my main goal. If I were to accomplish only one thing this school year, that would be it. Everything else would fall into place. The goal is not that they actually read 30 books (although if they do, booya!). The goal is that they develop a habit of reading. That they find books they love. That they escape into new worlds, identify with new characters, learn empathy and humanity and, maybe, just a little bit more about themselves.
Of course I need to teach reading comprehension strategies and test-taking strategies and inferencing skills…and so much more. But developing avid readers is my first priority because everything…EVERYTHING…starts with reading.
Think about the many ways and reasons we read each and every day. Think about your reading habits. And read every single day. That’s my challenge to my students.
Busy work? Never.