What "standard" is being met when we create, sustain, and support readers, readers who are on the road to becoming (or who already are) lifelong readers? We know from RESEARCH (which I am still waiting to see for CCSS) that meeting an author is one of the things that kids PK-12 find motivating when it comes to books and reading. This is RESEARCH which has been REPLICATED. Why the emphasis here? Because too many of the current group of education reformers are not looking at the research that already exists such as the value and importance of reading aloud, of choice in reading material, of teacher knowledge of contemporary books, of talk about reading, of community and so much more. They point instead to PISA and OECD scores as though they are the direction, the guiding star of education. "Let's do what they do in Finland. No, let's do what they do in Shanghai!" Lengthen school days. Shorten shcool days. More money for teachers. Bust the unions. Unions for teachers are good. Anyone feel like they are watching a ping pong game lately? I am getting positively dizzy.
So, let's stop all this nonsense. Let's keep in mind that some things will motivate kids and some things will cause them to become disengaged. Let's ask ourselves if EVERY. SINGLE. THING. done in the classroom need to be standard-driven? When do kids play or have fun or have the chance to respond in some way other than a bubble test? How can we create what Donalyn Miller calls WILD READERS and Penny Kittle calls READING LOVE and I call NAKED READING if we do not reach out to readers and invite them to be a part of the communities of readers available to them?
One final anecdote here. Years ago, Gary Paulsen came and spoke to a group of kids my friend Lois Buckman and I had been working with, a group of at-risk kids from her school who were paired with kids from my YA reading class. We called it STOMP (student-teacher online mentoring program). College kids and middle school kids read books in common. They talked about them online and in several FTF meetings over the course of a semester. Gary came at the end of the semester after school one day. Kids sat rapt as he talked about running the Iditarod, his favorite dogs, writing, and so much more. Afterwards, Gary signed book (which were provided free to the kids) and talked informally. Kids floated out the door on air having met a real "live" (their word) author. Fast forward 5 years. Lois and I are having dinner when a waiter approaches the table, a former student at Lois' school and one of those kids who listened to Gary Paulsen all those years ago. "You know," he confided, "I had not read that guy's book before he came. But I did read it that night, and I keep up with his books still. Got any others you can recommend?" Yes, Lois and I did some booktalks right there in the restaurant. It was one of those moments we all cherish: knowing how one kid had found someone with whom he could connect, an author who was real and live. Here was the proof yet again that, while an author visit might not directly address a standard, it could and did welcome a new member into the community of readers.