Sunday, June 17, 2012

Taking off the Authority Hat

Time and time again, I am asked, "How DO you do it?" How come I can suggest books to my child numerous times with flat refusal, but when YOU suggest one, I can't stop them from reading!"

Well, it's not that simple...and not every suggestion I make is a home run. FOR SURE.

But there are some things I do that make a difference.

First off, I approach with confidence. They know first off, that I am good at this...I know books, and that can't be argued. It's like having an Olympian as a coach. You don't doubt they know their stuff.

Secondly, I ask questions and listen. What are their interests? What have they read last? What makes them laugh? If they have trouble with those questions, I ask more. Taking the time to do this makes all the difference in the world.

Even if you think you know your child, reading lives are extremely personal, and it takes a while to understand them. Most of the time, the focus is on getting the kids to IMPROVE - which translates to your child that this is hard, it is something they have to master and accomplish, and that they can "arrive." 

That's not my approach. I want them to learn that reading is a facet of's enriching, exciting, fun, and  exactly the opposite of a task to be "done." 

Think about it...when was the last time you put reading on your "to do" list, and then checked it off?

I have an especially tricky spot too, because quite a few kids who enlist me for help in finding a book think that reading is an assignment from me...something they are doing because I want them to. They have been asked for repeated years to keep logs, read an amount of minutes, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things! (I like them to do those, but I tell them to look at them as ways they can keep track of what they have read, how much they have grown, how much time they spent in such a great endeavor -- like a scrapbook of reading, so to speak).

Here's what I think I do that breaks that perspective - I talk to them about their reading as a mutual reader.

What does that mean?

It means, just like we talk about books, I talk to them that way - not a "what-did-you-read-today,""tell-me what-the-character-did" questioning way - but an "oh-my-gosh-can-you-believe-that-part" and "I-couldn't-stop-reading-at-that-part-either" way. It's subtle, but makes all the difference in the world.

Kids pick up on sincerity, interest, and curiosity. I read a phrase somewhere recently that passion is at the core of excellence...and it inspires.

It's kind of like taking off my teacher and mom hat for a moment and putting on my READER hat. Once I stop looking at this as my job to do, they realize too that I am not doing this just because it's my job.

And that's what's enjoyable. 

Do I really forget that this is my job and what needs to be done with each one? NO! Being a teacher is being a coach and always thinking of each individual and how I can help them each grow. I have examined where they are, listened to them read, and actively made plans for them BEFORE the moment I am helping them. I don't pull it out and say, hmm...let me see, what did I plan for you? 

So, what does this mean for you? Talk to your kids as a reader. Gasp, laugh, and cry at what they are reading. 

I can talk more about how I make those other plans - and how to pick quality books to match those plans - tomorrow.

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