I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't want to teach, and in all those years, there was this image in my head of sitting in a big ole rocking chair reading to my students while they hung on every word, eyes lit up with excitement and wonder, and smiles as wide as the room!
Fast forward to the actual job of teaching, and often times, we see children sitting on the carpet for Story Time and that sparkle and curiosity is dim. Not at all like in the idealistic pictures of my youth.
Some years ago, I was calling my first graders to the carpet for a lesson using one of my favorite books. I hear a collective "ugh" from several of my kiddos. Now, this wasn't a groan I heard very often, so I had to investigate.
I asked, "Why the groaning? You don't want to listen to a great story?"
The response? "Every time you read to us, we have to DO something".
My first reaction was to assume the kids didn't want to do the work. And then I really got to thinking about it. Why is it that every single time we, as teachers, bring a book out, it's followed by an activity, a test, or some other assignment? When did we stop JUST READING to our kids?
There was always a catch! "I'll read you a great story, but you're going to have to work when we're finished!"
Many children had never had the opportunity to just listen to and immerse themselves in a story. It made me sad, and I knew that as much as I loved my teachers reading to me as a kid, I wanted to pass that along.
I know with all of the standards we have to teach, and the push to maintain the integrity of our instructional time that we are left with very little "extra" time. I also know that there are those who believe that read alouds with no assignment are a waste of time, or "fluff" as I was once told.
How can teaching children the love of reading and books be fluff or a waste of time? As a first grade teacher, that is one of my most important jobs...to instill a lifelong love of learning.
A gift. Don't you just love the thought of that? With each story read, you are giving a gift to your students. That idea just makes me happy.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge proponent of incorporating literature into every area of my teaching and into all subject areas. Most of the books in my classroom library are tied to a lesson that I will teach at some point, and all of those lessons involve an activity or assignment for my kids. Close Reading is one of the best things I have done in my classroom, and I am a huge supporter of teaching kids to THINK about text; however, I think we need to find some balance, too.
I read this quote by the wonderful Mem Fox, as she was talking about speaking to parents about reading. She said "When I say to a parent 'read to a child', I don't want it to sound like medicine, I want it to sound like chocolate".
I want that too. I want kids to think of books like I think of chocolate... perfect and wonderful...and something I can't wait to get my hands on!
So, I say, it's okay to JUST READ.
Because it teaches children to JUST listen, JUST imagine, JUST dream, JUST wonder, JUST think, JUST love books.
What do you think?