Saturday, September 7, 2013

From the Mouths of Babes

Last night was our first home football game of the season. I love football games. Love the cheering under the lights, the joy on my boys’ faces when they find their friends, and the feeling of fall in the air. I also love games in my hometown – seeing my students as they grow up. Greetings range from the hugs from my current students, the shouts of recognition from the middle school kids, to the waves, smiles, and quick hugs from those students now grown into teens. It is a wonderful night full of connections.

As I wound my way around the field following Liam and a friend throughout the night, I had the chance to talk to many parents and students. There were greetings from new parents, discussions with former students about what they were reading, and celebrations with former parents regarding their children’s reading teachers this year. My favorite conversation, however, happened at the end of the night.

Clayton is a former student who is now an eighth grader. When I taught him several years ago I remember an avid reader who was a bit addicted to Harry Potter. I haven’t seen much of him for the last two years, but he was waiting for his parents last night in the same spot I was waiting for Luke. We talked about the start of the year, what he did that summer, and how he enjoyed middle school. Then I, of course, asked what he was reading.

I can’t remember what the titles were that Clayton told me because I was fixated on what he said next. He rattled off a few books and said he had already finished the fourth book of the school year. (We’ve been in school for fourteen days.) I smiled, said I wasn’t surprised, he is a huge reader. Then, Clayton corrected me.

He said, “No, Mrs. S. I was a huge reader in fifth. I read very little in sixth and seventh. I didn’t like reading anymore.”

I looked at him, shocked. He loved reading! This was a kid that was every definition of a reader. I asked him what changed and why he was reading again.

Clayton smiled and replied, “My teacher this year asked us to read 25 books by the end of the year. We can choose what we want to read, there aren’t assigned books. It’s like that thing you did in 5th – workshop, I think?” I told him yes, he was in a reading workshop again. And then he said this:

“You know what, Mrs. S.? I enjoy reading more when I can choose what I read. And then I read a lot more. I think I get better at it too. Do you think other teachers know that? Maybe you should tell them.”

I laughed out loud and said, yes, I think choice matters a lot. In fact, I’m a pretty big believer in it. I’m glad Clayton’s teacher is too.