Friday, December 3, 2010

To Catch a Cold

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
— Ray Bradbury

It is the goal of reading teachers to foster a love of reading. They employ many strategies to try and win young hearts over to the beauty of undiscovered lands, unrequited loves, and adventures that are daring and sometimes deadly. For some students, this one teacher holds the entire world and she does it with zeal and enthusiasm. But is it enough.

"When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and the ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a good book."
—Christopher Morley

Alliteracy is a concern in today's world. Parents who choose not to read risk raising children who also choose not to. But non-reading parents are not the only concern. The one place where students should be surrounded by reading role-models, school, they often are not. Surveys conducted of teachers show that they do not read any more often that adults in the general population. What can be done?

"Reading early in life gives a youngster a multitude of 'friends' to guide intellectual and emotional growth."
— Carroll D. Gray

Can the reading teacher alone turn every student into a person who finds the joy of reading? They try! They band together. They share their reading lists. They make recommendations to help each other when they have a student who doesn't seem interested in anything. They book talk, they display books, and they read, read, read. But would more kids be bitten by the reading bug if all teachers shared a love of reading with students? If the science teacher shared science fiction titles. If the social studies teacher book-talked historical fiction. If all classes made time in the day to show that reading is a priority, how much of a difference would it make?

You can't catch a cold or the love of reading from someone who has
neither. -Jim Trelease


  1. I agree that we must band together to develop readers. My wife and I both love to read. (She's a fiction book nerd; I'm a cross-genre-but-mostly-blog-reading geek.) It's rare for our kids to see us not reading. We have very limited TV time at our house, but I'm still not confident my kids will become voracious readers. In fact, I'm pretty sure one hates it and reads very poorly (Hmm. Chicken or egg?). I like the idea that every teacher should share his passion for reading. It needs to happen, but even if this happens and the child has parents who love to read, there are no guarantees.

    If I could change one element of my own kids' school reading program, I would change the idea that there are certain books they must read. Instead, let's encourage them to pursue their own interests by having free choice about what they read. And let's stop objectively testing facts from books. How is this helpful? We can encourage them to challenge themselves with more difficult reading occasionally, but let's get beyond the read it/test it mentality. Wouldn't a conversation about the book be more helpful?

  2. You brought up great points, Phil! You're right, we won't turn every child into a voracious reader, and there are many schools that have it wrong, even in their reading programs. Sometimes the programs turn voracious readers into non-readers. Differentiation and building relationships are key, I believe. If we really know our kids, we can direct them to materials that will capture their interest, if not their heart. Differentiation will help us give students the books they can handle and scaffold them into higher levels while we try to avoid what Kelly Gallagher so aptly calls readicide.