Rush of Joy

So I’m a Title 1 Reading Teacher.  Which means I work with students who are struggling and reluctant readers.  The students that Donalyn Miller refers to as “developing readers” in “The BookWhisperer”.  A book that I’m on my 2nd read through, because the first time through I was in such awe thinking “this is how it should be”.  This time I’m slowing down, underlining what I like, adding *’s and of course stickies are beginning to stick out.

Mainly I teach in guided reading groups and focus on instructional strategies.  We haven’t focused much on the fun of reading.  In the regular classroom the students get to choose books and take a test on their choice book and earn prizes.  Funny thing is, I don’t hear children talking about books.  I don’t see children clutching books.  I don’t feel the excitement in the air about new books.

Hmmm….. what to do about this?  I started looking at who was taking tests.

Hmmm…. very few students were taking tests.  So I figure they’re reading, just not testing.

Don’t hate me for my next desperate move.  I offered candy, name on my bulletin board and name announced on the intercom for any earning a 100% on a test. 

A few students from each class took some tests.

Hmmm…a few from each class.

So, I looked closer.  Many students hadn’t tested in a year or more.  Why not now?  It’s chocolate candy. 

They were beyond reluctant readers.  They were non-readers.  Did not see any joy in reading.  Some were embarassed by their “good fit” books, that they consistently chose books that were beyond for them.

Hmmm…. now what do I do?  I visit my fellow title teacher.

“I need book bags that are not clear so that the other kids don’t see what my students are reading.”

Without blinking an eye she jumps up and says, “How many do you want?”

This was about 4 weeks ago.  Today after letting these readers (and they are readers) pick their books for fun, I told them I would be in a meeting tomorrow, so get a couple extras.

One boy said, “We won’t get to come here tomorrow?”

“No,” I shook my head.

With a very disappointed face he complained, “Awww, mannn.” 

As I watched he chose another book to add to his bag and looked at me.

“Go ahead, you can take another.” 

He lit up and made another choice.

What a turn around for this child that hadn’t finished a book of his own choosing in over a year. 

What a rush of joy.


6 thoughts on “Rush of Joy

  1. Wow, I have always felt that tearing feeling of the heart with intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. I do believe it is possible for the kids in today’s world can grow in their love of reading. The book “mrs. Spritzer’s Garden” comes to mind. We have to work on cultivating that love. It sounds like some sprouting has been happening with that little boy. I also think there is power in read-aloud time.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your first official slice! I just wrote mine yesterday, too. As a middle school librarian I’m always seeking ways to encourage my reluctant readers to move forward..I tell each of them my goal is to help them find the book that will open that door for them. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I loved you post – so heartfelt. I retired last year after 30+ years. I got fed up with the politics and the whole teaching to the test mentality. I refused to do that. Kids need to love reading and that was my no. 1 goal all year. We did shared reading of poems and songs every morning (even gr. 3s), we did reader’s theatre and plays. I read great literature. And yes we did guided reading and other must do’s. But by the end of the year, my kids could sit and read for 30 min. and still want to do more. Yes, I miss it!

  4. Welcome to the slice of life! You have hit on something so important. How do we get kids to want to read? It really has to do with the message from the classroom teacher. Where does reading fit in with that teacher? The Book Whisperer drives home that message.

  5. Love this post, hearing your thinking, and seeing what you’re doing to help your students love reading! I want someone to write books for 6th grade struggling readers that look like everyone else’s books. Great closing line- “What a rush of joy!” It’s why we do what we do.

    • Thank you for the feedback! I get what you mean about someone writing books that look like everyone else’s books. I want to find some sports books like Matt Christopher’s or Mike Lupica’s that are written with 1st-2nd grade reading ability.

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