As a child, I did not read much. I definitely did not read for pleasure, but I read because I had to. Part of the reason I didn’t enjoy reading was that I was continuously asked to read books in which I was not interested in the classroom setting.
Now that I think about it, I did read for pleasure. Rick Reilly was one of my favorite authors, and he always wrote an article on the last page of Sports Illustrated that would combine a sports story with some emotional, human-interest story. As soon as I saw the new Sports Illustrated in the library, I would immediately rush for it and go right to the back to read the new Reilly piece. The problem is that I was told that reading magazines were not “real reading.” From conversations that I have seen educators have and have been lucky to be a part of, it is often shared we should never deter students from reading anything that interests them, whether it is graphic novels, blogs, magazines, novels, non-fiction, or whatever media I am not listing. A child reading is a good thing, although it might not be the type of text that interests you.
I am not saying that students shouldn’t be exposed to literature in which they might not have much interest. There are books that I have read that have blown me away that I would not have picked up if it was not for someone else’s suggestion. My concern is when we only ask students to read things that they do not have any interest. If at any point I would have been encouraged in class to read a book that had to do with the history of basketball, I would have been elated, and perhaps I wouldn’t have seen reading in the negative and been more open to suggested texts. I am proud to say that I read every day now and am an author, not only of books but of this blog. If you would have asked me in high school if I saw writing in my future. I would have laughed. I now can’t see a future where I don’t write. But I can read and write things that I am interested in, which makes all of the difference.
The point of this post is not only to think about what our students read but more about finding out who they are and tapping into their strengths and passions. As a student I was told that I “talk too much”, and although I understand the concern for disrupting the learning of others, was this something that was seen as a strength to develop and harness or something to be avoided? Many of our students bring talents and passions into the classroom, and although it would be impossible to tie in everything we do in a school directly to the needs of each child we serve, we need to find the opportunities when we can. I have shared the following image as questions to start the school year, but they can be used at any time to help build “learner profiles” that help us better understand our students.
This isn’t the only thing that can be done to tap into bring out the genius in each child as the answers to these questions can and will change over time. We simply need to be aware that “school” should never be a deterrent in bringing out the talents, abilities, and passions of each and every child we serve.
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