Last week, my daughter sat next to me while I was working and wrote a fiction book about fruit and a non-fiction book about balloons. All her idea and all by herself! I deliberately watched from afar–talking to her a bit as she composed her ideas and reveling in her finished products. And then later that week while I exercised, she watched me, taking notes on how I could improve my technique. Her tips are above: Practice making your leg get straight. Lock your legs. Workout Leah Practice bending your knees. Workout Leah Make sure that you balance. Workout Leah. In both of these scenarios, my feedback was sparse. These were the first two times she had initiated writing and I trusted that she would do something interesting. Another happy moment. Recently when visiting a school, a parent of a third grader at that school shared how his family had a late night that week and his 9 year old daughter was adamant that even at 10:15 at night, she had to read for 30 minutes before going to bed. The father, because it was late, suggested she skip reading that night and double up the following night. “I don’t ever want to skip even a night of reading,” she said, ” Especially at the best part of the book.” 2 different kids, 2 different ages, but both joyful and self-directed about reading and writing. You could argue that those two kids are natural, pros at what they do. While who they are might play into how they view reading and writing, I believe their caretakers and their schools have shaped their values as well.
Here is another story about a school that views reading and writing differently. Two lovely third grade students were asked to take us on a tour of their school. When the director of the school introduced us, she said, “They are VERY disappointed to be your tour guides. They are missing their reading time.” All the adults had a good chuckle at her comment, except for me. I didn’t view her comment as a small joke, but rather a window into how she viewed reading. As I observed that day, I saw many skills and strategies being thoughtfully taught, skills that would certainly help these kids become strategic readers and writers. But the joy and engagement were missing from the classrooms. I wondered how many of those kids would choose to read and write outside of what was required of them. Yes, every child is different but I am certain that their school has helped to shape their values around reading and writing.
Kylene Beers recently said “If we teach a child the skill of reading without encouraging the love of reading, we will have created a literate illiterate.” The great thing is the skills and the love can and should be side by side. I end with a video of my daughter writing at age 3:
She is clearly joyful, but also hard at work using many age appropriate strategies.
How do your own views shape your students? How do we thoughtfully teach the skills/strategies our students need, all the while keeping them joyful and engaged? I hope these questions lead to grand conversations in the comments below.