Roots are the things that sustain plants and help them to grow. Most plants have more than one root. I wonder what are the roots that sustain a reader's heart? Surely, they are things we have talked about here in the past. Here are a few that come to mind immediately.
Root A: Books nourish the reader's heart. We have all talked about the right book for the right reader at the right time. But sometimes ANY old book will do for me. If I am stuck in traffic or in a waiting room or some other place where there is time on my hands, I will read ANYTHING (menus, pamphlets, billboards, etc.). I think folks that have developed a reader's heart are like this. So, surround us with books. That will help roots grow and develop and reach deeper into the ground.
Root B: Reading role models are important. Why should I bother to put down roots in sandy or rocky soil? If the ground is fertile, it is root friendly. Too much metaphor here? Sorry. But if I do not see others reading or see the value of reading beyond the test, why bother setting down roots and trying to grow as a reader. While I have been thrilled to see nonfiction get attention after all these years, I fear that the emphasis from CCSS will simply make this one more type of book kids will grow to hate. WHY are we selecting and sharing books? HOW are we doing this? The act of being a model seems relatively simple on the surface, but I think it needs to be more conscious sometimes. We need to plan it so that kids catch us reading. We need to talk purposefully about our reading lives.
Root C: Time is another important root element. A study in the 1970s indicated that reading classes spent 93% of time on instruction and only 7% of time on practice. I suspect in this CCSS climate, that those figures have not changed for the better. I have written about time before, but it really is an essential ingredient in the mix. As I write this on New Year's Eve, I hope to find the time to read perhaps one more book this year. I finished one with my ears as I was drinking coffee this morning, but I think I can fit in one more. That will take my total to more than 800 books this year, more than 150 of them YA. I set aside time to read every day that I can. I read with my ears, have eBooks, etc. TIME is hard to come by for our kids who are often overscheduled outside of school. We need to give them time to draw nourishment from us and from the books with which we surround them.
Root D: a reading climate at the school that permeates every single classroom if possible. I was fortunate to work in such a school. Dennis Paul, my principal, supported all of our efforts to grow readers. he read to kids, was seen with book in hand, allowed us to offer electives in free reading, worked daily reading into our official school schedule. That climate made it easier for us to nourish readers' hearts.
Root E: JOY! PLEASURE! FUN! Sometimes reading can be a chore. We need to do all in our power to make it less so, to show kids the fun and pleasure and joy of reading. Audiobooks, graphic novels, picture books beyond elementary school, reading aloud: the list goes on. Why should we expect kids to do something that is not at all enjoyable? Yes, we all read for information, too, but that does not mean it is not enjoyable. I think of the professional books I read (and read again): BOOK LOVE, THE BOOK WHISPERER, CHOOSING TO READ: all of them drew me in because the authors' voices (Kittle, Miller, Kindig) were real and present. Good informational text is like that, too.
So, blessings to you all in the year to come. Thanks for reading the blog and for giving me feedback and comments to let me know that you are out there fighting the good fight.