Keep It Cool and They Just Might Take Reading Seriously…

Last week I did a read aloud with my eight graders on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The students enjoyed the book and handled the tough concepts of internal struggle and duel identity well. And though my exit activity proved to me that they were engaged in the reading, and they were thinking critically the real results of the reading reveled themselves this week. Three students asked where they could get the book to read on their own time. I will repeat this, three students asked to read the book outside of school, a book not assigned or to be graded, and something that will be devoured with pleasure not in the troughs of homework agony. When this was asked of me “where can I get this book to read?” I had to “check myself” not to respond with a loud three cheers for reading and above all resist high fiving them! Least I deter them with my teacher “un-coolness” , but rather I helped them track down the book and gave them a hearty , “ I am so excited for you read this- let me know what you think when you are finished .”
No, this was not the entire 89 8th grade English lit student body begging for the book, and yes, I am aware that the goal is the get them all reading, reading and more reading. But, this felt like such a victory! And you know why, because they reached out to me, asking for the book and it was a book they heard in class. Though a small amount this has huge success written (or should I say read) all over it. This is a perfect reminder that all those hours we pour into lessons and units and scaffolding or teacher tricks that feel lost on glazed eyes and foggy brains focusing on homecoming or food or anything else rather than class – that we can still reach out to the students. We can get them perked up in class to learn and discover on their own outside the classroom. Because isn’t that the point of why we teach? I want my students to become lifelong learners! I do not want a former student to come up to me and say “I just loved that very specific but random thing you said about Shakespeare that one day a long time ago…” that would just be unrealistic, and a little surprising at such a fabulous memory. But rather I want to hear “hey that book you read really got me into reading that authors work..”. This week as the perfect reminder of why I want to teach and why I think reading is such a magical experience!

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