Thursday, April 30, 2009

Should they or shouldn’t they?

Yesterday I visited a teacher at her wit’s end with book abandoners. She said, “I can’t believe that here we are in April and I still have kids who pick up a book, read a couple of pages, and put it down only to start the cycle again with another book!” She continued by saying, “These are fourth graders. They should be reading chapter books!”

Understanding her frustration and knowing that she is feeling the pressure of June, my question for her was simple. “Should they?”

She thought. “Shouldn’t they?”

Reaching our wit’s end is not a comfortable feeling. However, it is sometimes just what we need to rethink our instruction and evaluate what WE are doing that might be impeding the change we hope to affect.

When children abandon books, it is often their way of telling us that their reading is too hard. Perhaps if these children were reading shorter texts they would build the stamina they’d need to sustain a longer text. Or maybe, if these children spent some time with picture books they’d rediscover a passion that died when the books they were expected to read stopped having the lovely illustrations that they fell in love with as young readers. Either way, maybe fourth graders shouldn’t always be reading chapter books. I’m thirty-eight and I haven’t picked up a chapter book today. I have read the newspaper, my email, and several samples of first grade writing. I feel a sense of accomplishment. Could it be that chapter books don’t always give our young readers a sense of accomplishment? Are we perpetuating an anti-reading sentiment by pushing them into long texts all the time?

I warn to be wary of the word should. Very often the change that we seek rests with “should not.”

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