When They Practice, But Don’t Read

I had the privilege of sitting with a group of boys last week and talking with them about why they didn’t read.

“I don’t like reading,” was the first response from each of them.  Then, “I don’t see any value in it,” “I’m lazy,” “I only read what I have to for school,” and “It’s boring,” when I probed more deeply.

I shared with them some of the reasons why I so love reading and some of the reasons why I’m so passionate about helping others get better at reading.  

And then I challenged them to take on reading a book for pleasure this next month.  

Of the five:  three agreed to take on reading a book for pleasure in February, one said he’d work with me to try to find something he might like, and one declined.  Not bad results for a ten-minute conversation with a strange lady they’d only met that week.

But the whole conversation left me feeling a little sad.

Sad that I likely won’t be back in that classroom again to engage in face to face talk about books and reading.  Whatever further conversation we have together will have to be virtual.

And sad that no one seemed to be having this conversation with them before me.  They were in a Read Right reading class and their teacher, for whatever reason, felt that she had to focus on helping them get better at reading and not on who they were as readers, not on fostering and nurturing a love of reading.

Now I believe in the transformative power of Read Right as a methodology for helping people get better at reading.  I love it!  There is nothing that I have encountered in my studies of how the brain works that make me doubt the effectiveness of having learners engage in this process.

But this process is not reading!

It is brain training.  It is deliberate practice in reading.

And what is the point of practicing if they never engage in “playing the game”?

As a Read Right consultant, I worked with the teacher to help her grow her mindset and to know that engaging in conversations about what they were reading and why they were reading was, indeed, aligned with our program.

Yet, having these conversations was not the main thing I was there to coach her on that week, and–just as with those boys–I will not be back in her classroom again.  Any further coaching I provide will be virtual and voluntary (read-unpaid) on both our parts.

I’ll send her resources and links and keep in touch via email, but my biggest hope is that she heard me when I shared with her how I’ve been using Twitter to help me grow.  Her school does not have professional learning communities and her district does not have professional learning networks, but that doesn’t mean she has to operate in isolation.  There are PLNs on Twitter.

The beauty of the Internet is that so many wonderful educators are willing to share their stories and practices.  I’m hoping she will connect with a few folks like @readwritethrive and @tlovesbooks  and follow a few hashtags like #ELAchat and #booklove.  Or explore podcasts like The Book Love Foundation Podcast.

Because those boys deserve having a teacher who helps them get in the game and on the court with reading and one who won’t just keep them practicing at getting better (at something for which they currently see no value.) 

One who will champion and nurture their reading identities and help them redefine themselves as readers for the rest of their lives.

 

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