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11 March 2015 @ 11:31 am
Who are you, reader?  
My name is Teri, and I am a reader. Yes, sometimes I go days without reading in the traditional sense (i.e., a book). But there is not a day goes by that I do not read SOMETHING. I read my email. I read student submissions for class. I read Twitter and Facebook feeds. I read headlines. I read all the crawl on the TV screen. I read billboards and street signs and GPS directions. I read maps. I read diagrams. I read. Every. Single. Day.

And it is this definition of "reading" that is key, I think, to my identity as a reader. I see reading beyond fiction or nonfiction, or poetry and prose, or picture book or graphic novel. I see reading n a much broader sense. I wonder what would happen if we allowed students to do the same. Video game playing? That's reading. Texts? Reading. We have so narrowed what counts as reading that many no longer see themselves as readers. That is because we do not see what they do as reading sometimes.

Reformists have narrowed definitions of reading (and literacy), too. They do not see independent reading, reading for pleasure, choice in reading, reading aloud, and so many other elements as "reading' within their narrow definitions. Reading consists of the 5 pillars of instruction and the six shifts of CCSS. Beyond that, many outside of the classroom cannot see what a broader definition of reading means.

I believe the narrowed definitions of reading lead to the findings of a recent Scholastic report that indicated: "Children ages 6–11 who are frequent readers read an average of 43.4 books per year, whereas infrequent readers in this age group read only 21.1 books annually. An even more profound difference occurs among children ages 12–17, with frequent readers reading 39.6 books annually and infrequent readers reading only 4.7 books per year." The Washington Post dedicated two columns to this report (and I have blogged about it before as well). Here is the link to one of the WaPo columns: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/09/how-to-get-kids-to-read-independently/.

The article points to 3 predictors of the habit of reading for "fun" (and remember that this is the wrong word; it is about reading independently). One factor is that kids who read self-identity as someone who enjoys reading. They believe reading, even reading independently is important. And they have parents who are readers, too. I would argue they also have teachers who are readers. And others in their lives who serve as models.

We need to assist kids in developing an identity as a reader. That means bringing to an end comments such as, "Why are you reading X? Get a book that is harder, longer, more serious, older, etc." And comments that demean CHOICE in reading such as, "THOSE are the books kids will read anyhow. I spend time in class making sure they read GOOD books." Or, "If we allow them total choice, they will never grow as readers." Or, "I know what is better for them to read. After all, I read these books, too." I could go on, but chances are you have heard some of these comments.

We need to challenge the comments that denigrate CHOICE, that dismiss INDEPENDENT READING, that would eliminate reading aloud. We also need to continue the discussion that expands our concept of what reading is and what it looks like. For now, I plan to go pick out a book to take with me to the hairdresser. Something slim I can read while I am being primped and shorn and colorized. A book most might dismiss as not complex or rigorous enough for me. But a book I will READ and finish today most likely. Because, you see, I am a READER.
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