Reading Workshop drawn by Maggie D.
Sometimes I think we teachers are just getting in our students’ way with our anxiety to address specific and isolated reading skills. Looking at the Des Cartes continuum from MAP testing, at Standards and Benchmarks, gives one an illusory adult’s eye view of what reading is all about, a deceptive sense of authority over the terrain. From our lofty viewpoint we plan out our campaign to conquer figurative language or appositive phrases, steering our classes on a journey driven by our concern to cover the far flung curriculum objectives, rather than one driven by each child’s desire to find pleasure and meaning in what they read.
The child’s experience is ant like. The reading journey unfolds page by page with the story. Here the teacher’s viewpoint is irrelevant and marshaling children to read the assigned texts and corralling them to read books at their prescribed reading level creates an artificial geography of intellectual AstroTurf.
Reading is exploration, an adventure through unknown territory. While at times readers trek alone, other times they follow hot on the trail of friends’ recommendations. Sometimes they travel light, reading and re-reading easy books with predictable structures, gathering mileage on paper. Other times they are so motivated to read a particular book that, even if it were Everest to their current reading level, they will still attempt it and enjoy it.
I had two key guides on my early explorations. The first was my father, who took me to a bookshop or a library every week, and cannily offered to double my pocket money if I spent it on books! The second was my middle school English teacher, who gave her students free reign of her massive book collection, knew every book as an old friend and could recommend a book for every taste and mood.
This unstinting access to books, the sharing of the joy and fascination of reading, the building of a community of readers is the work that has to happen in my classroom. Let me follow my instincts and listen to the children,
“Oh no, we aren’t going to have those endless worksheets again this year! Can’t we just read, Miss!”