Friday, July 6, 2012

Thoughts on reading

This summer I have been giving a lot of thought to readers. How do we become readers? What conditions create readers? Are you born more likely to be a reader?

This line of thought began at the start of summer when I wrote this post: Raising Readers. My sons do like to read, some days more than others. But this picture of them was in the back of my mind.

Then I began my summer reading camp. Twelve kids, various ages and reading abilities meeting at my house. I’d watch them like an observer at the zoo. What was different child to child? Fascinating stuff.

The end of June came rushing up and with it an amazing conference that I have already written about – All Write. Donalyn Miller spoke there about the habits of readers and how we can teach these habits to our students to help them all become readers. Hmm. More food for thought.

Just in time, my family road trip arrived. 15 hours in the car and then eight days on an island. Bliss. I packed, my boys and Chris packed, and we were off.

Some things I noticed about the preparation for the vacation and the vacation itself, in relation to reading (and many of these were from Donalyn’s presentation – her words and my actions made them even more concrete):

·      Readers plan. (Donalyn talks about avoiding reading emergencies.) First thing I actually packed was books. I knew I needed to get caught up on my #nerdbery challenge so I picked those first. Luke and Liam both packed books they thought they might read on the trip, extras in case they finished. Chris packed two he had been meaning to get to along with all of the magazines he has been meaning to read.

Chris reading The Water is Wide
·      Reading role models are important. I think I’m a pretty obvious role model for my boys (and my students). Talk to me for more than ten minutes and we will have discussed books at least once. But I love that Chris is a role model. He doesn’t read as much as I do, but does read. His reading varies from books to magazines to comic books. My parents are also with us and ask the boys often what they are reading. In the afternoon or evening you might find them with a book. And sometimes your role models are more random. At a dinner with my cousin on the way down, Luke discussed the Harry Potter series with him.

Outside Little shop of Stories
·      Reading pervades your life. Books were part of our packing for the trip but also part of the trip itself. We drove to Atlanta to see Ivan from Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. (Unfortunately it was too hot for Ivan to venture out that day!) We went to an independent bookstore in Decatur, Georgia because friends had told me how wonderful it was. I wore my Wonder t-shirt and had many discussions about that amazing book with the people in the bookstore.
Liam with his new best friend,
Pete the Cat.
Liam reading in the car. 
·      Part of being a reader is a desire to read. Liam is seven. He was a late reader and it had been a struggle. But he wants to be a reader. Sometimes I think he picks up a book because he wants to be seen reading, he knows I will comment. I will happily reinforce this habit. He is sad when he realizes a book Luke has just finished is too hard for him, but we talk about finding the right books at the right times. Liam is a reader because he reads, the fact that he has a desire to be one helps even more.

Luke reading in the hotel
·      Readers make time to read. I read daily. I’ve tried to read a book a day over the entire summer. Some days I fall short, but I still read. My boys read almost every day. There are some days they forget but I am here to remind them. When they are hooked on a book it isn’t difficult to get them to read. But when they are busy or just beginning a book, I have to be their reminder. It amazes me the amount of parents that lament their child’s struggle in reading. But when I see these kids at the pool and ask them what they are reading their answer is zip. Left to their own devices my boys would eat McDonalds daily, watch TV and play video games until they became zombies, and never sleep. As their parents we help steer them in the right direction. Reading is part of that.

Boys reading in hotel room with Pete the Cat
·      Finally, readers need to talk about reading. I lost track of the amount of people on the way down I recommended books to. I talked to my cousins, random shoppers in the bookstore, a stranger who asked about my Wonder t-shirt, my aunt and uncle, my parents. But what stopped me in my tracks was walking in the kitchen one day to hear Liam telling my mom, whom he calls “Mumsie”, that she just had to read Babymouse. I heard him say, “Mumsie, you will just love her.” The next day my mom handed him Babymouse Mad Scientist over breakfast and asked what else he had and told him how much she loved Babymouse. As I listened to them discuss the book I had one thought, awesome. 

As we prepare to pack and head back to the Midwest I am grateful I was raised in a way that reading became such a part of me. I know that helped shape who I am. Looking over my summer with the boys and my reading camp kids, I think I will continue to share what makes me a reader with my students this year. Maybe they will have conditions they need to succeed that I haven’t thought of yet? I know that the discussion will be enlightening.