Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's Okay to "Just Read" to Your Students!

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?

I realized that there are children that view books and stories negatively because there was always "work" attached to it. 

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.

I disagree. 

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 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?


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  1. I LOVE this Kelly! You are SO right! We need to "just read" to our kids so that they learn the LOVE reading! So they realize that reading is enjoyable and fun and not a chore! Great post!

  2. I love this post! I want my children to LOVE reading and being read to! Thank you for writing this!

  3. Yes! Children should love to read for fun!

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Even in 5th and 6th grade :)

  5. I totally agree with you and I teach sixth grade! I make time almost every day for students to sit and just listen. Our books are much longer than yours, but it gives me the chance to introduce kids to a new genre or a new series. And although every once in a while, I'll emphasize a sentence or a word because it illustrates what we were just working on, the remainder of the time is just for them to sit and listen. And you know what? They love it! Nothing is better than when they groan and say, "Why do you always stop at the best part?" Melts my heart!

  6. Spot on friend! I finally got around to reading The Book Whisperer over the holidays. After I finished, I vowed to look at how I approach reading in my class. Reading for fun was something I used to do ALL the time. But with curriculum units, standards, pre and post tests, there was little time for it. Last week I MADE time for it and I am so glad I did. Thanks for sharing such a great post!

    An Apple a Day in First Grade

  7. This is truly a fantastic post. I am definitely going to follow these tips while teaching in my class. Actually I just joined a Phoenix pre-k and all these tips will be very beneficial for me to teach with ease in the class.

  8. I agree that sometimes it is ok to "just read" to our students! I am a huge fan of read-alouds, and sometimes kids just want to listen to and discuss a book! Many students do not have someone to read to them at home and they treasure the experience at school.

    What do think of interactive read-alouds? Do you do these in your classroom? Do you have "work" connected to the story?


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