professornana (professornana) wrote,

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How We Read

Smart things other people say. Donalyn Miller remarked recently at a session where we were presenting information about building community and scaffolding readers that we do not always read UP. Sometimes we read DOWN and even SIDEWAYS. Well, yeah, of course, I thought. Even though I am known for building reading ladders, I often say (and even in the book am quick to point out) that kids shoulld be allowed to linger on steps on the way up a ladder (stability, confidence) and sometimes ladders are horizontal and not diagonal or vertical. But I think I might have forgotten that sometimes we need to go down ladders, too. All of this has come into play as I wrestle with CCSS and the mandates being handed out (incorrectly) across the country about percentages of reading fiction versus nonfiction, about lexiles and challenging text, and about close reading. Thanks, Donalyn, for reminding me about DIRECTIONALITY.


I can think of many occasions when I read down. Well, for one thing, I read books for kids. Those are definitely below my Lexile and ATOS levels (shame on me!). But I do read down deliberately from time to time. When I feel as though I am in a reading slump, I will read a whole big batch of picture books. Each takes little time, but 5 picture books X 32 pages each = 150+ pages I can read in a very short period of time. Ditto graphic novels. Quick reads for when I just am overwhelmed by other demands. I also read down when I go back to pick up earlier titles in a series I have just discovered. or I read down when I read a novel in verse. Reading down does NOT mean reading easier texts all of the time. For those who do not love GNs like I do, reading down can be more challenging than reading more difficult text, I know. Some folks would say the same about novels in verse. And there are picture books that are challenging, too (Where the Wild Things Are has the same readability as Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction, AN ACQUAINTANCE WITH DARKNESS and AMERICAN BORN CHINESE and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY).


I have witnessed it countless times: kids who want to read what their older siblings or friends are reading. When I was teaching 8th grade, it was Stephen King's THE STAND. I watched a struggling reader spend months reading the book, a few pages at a time. Talk about reading up. He kept at it because he WANTED to read it, not because it was assigned or to take a test. He wanted to say he had read it. And it is OK to ask kids to stretch from time to time. But keep developmental needs in mind, too. This is where I part quite a bit with CCSS which sometimes show absolutely no understanding of child development. There are series that challenge readers to stretch: the Icemark series comes to mind as does the Octavian Nothing series by Tobin Anderson. I will confess to reading those two volumes slowly and with sometimes a glance at a dictionary for some assistance.


I sometimes call this reading serially. At the past IRA conference, I had the delight of chairing a panel of authors who write series: Tom Angleberger of the Origami Yoda books, Ellis Weiner, author fo the Templeton Twins, Mallory series author Laurie Friedman, and Annie Barrows of the Ivy and Bean books. I have to admit I have read all these series as a grown up. Add in Nancy Drew, Sue Barton, Cherry Ames, Sweet Valley High, and so many others for me as well. I read mysteries. I read horror. I read serially quite a bit. I suspect many of you do as well.

As we continue with Teacher Appreciation Week, a shout out to Donalyn Miller, a teacher who proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks (or at least remind them of the tricks they used to know).
Tags: books, ccss, levels, reading
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