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13 July 2014 @ 04:38 pm
The Parable of the Sower  
The gospel reading today was the Parable of the Sower, sometimes called the Parable of the Soils. As is common for me these days, the words of this story transcended the religious aspects to enter into the education world. Perhaps it is because I am in the middle of writing some chapters for the book Donalyn Miller and I are co-authoring, but analogies, allusions, metaphors and similes abound of late. And using parables is a time-honored tradition.

So, hoping no one will think me sacrilegious, I am offering some words and hoping they fall into fertile soil and that those seeds grow. Donalyn's incredible book, READING IN THE WILD, talks about how (and why) our goal should not be school-time readers but wild readers. Frank Smith talks about belonging to the "reading club." I often use the term lifelong readers. No matter the label, we are all wanting to support our students so that, once they have left us and the classroom, they will continue to grow, to read, to share books with others. In other words, we want adults who are literate, who know how to find the next book, who can connect with other readers, who see the value in books and reading. How do we get there?

Many have offered suggestions and advice about "growing" readers. But the gospels today are about the SOIL and not just the SEED. It is not, then, just about the right book at the right time (pointing at myself here as that is the subtitle of my first book, MAKING THE MATCH). It is about helping to ensure that the ground (soil) is fertile. Laying the groundwork, tilling the soil, filling in with ore dirt, removing the rocks: there is much to be done before the planting of the seeds.

Some of this is the work of the gardener or farmer or grower. He or she has to know the soil, has to remove the obstacles (and be able to see them is a good start, right?), has to have supplies on hand to commit to making the soil as fertile as it can be. I think of this as the background work we all do. We take books on vacation; we attend PD in the summer looking for one more idea or one more book or one more THING that can help us. Having spent a week (along with Karin Perry) in a school district talking about the basics of children's and YA literature (genre, form, format) and how to connect readers (motivation) and how to hold them accountable (assessment), I hope we were doing some tilling and helping the educators to fill in some soil and build a richer environment. Karin and I are doing the ams in our online classes, I hope.

I am reworking my YA lit course syllabus in terms of book selection and assessment hoping to mirror more of what I hope future school librarians will also do in their work to create lifelong readers. I am ending my own soil, finding dirt that is, I hope, rich. And this is what we do: we spend time thinking about that dirt, working our plot of soil, finding nutrients. It is good work, digging down in the dirt and discovering what lies beneath.

I have more to say about digging, sowing, harvesting. But this is sufficient for a Sunday. It is time to survey some of my seedlings and select one to plant in my own garden.
 
 
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