Avid reader? Struggling reader? Reluctant reader? Bad reader?
Labels do matter, but so do positive reading experiences and a supportive community. The Reading Connection's programs provide opportunities and a community for at-risk kids to see their reading selves in a positive way.
Publishers Weekly* recently interviewed two seventh-grade teachers about how their goal of creating lifelong readers informs the way they talk to the kids, arrange their classrooms and set their priorities. Their insights, while gained working in school classrooms, offer inspiring examples that can be applied to our Read-Alouds.
Teacher Pernille Ripp describes how kids develop their reading identities as follows:
"No child comes to kindergarten and tells us that they are a struggling reader... Instead, that identity is created within our classrooms, within our groupings, and within our hallway conversations, where students quickly figure out which labels should identify them....
[T]here are so many readers who are not confident, or who don’t see reading as something they would ever do for pleasure. Does it matter what label we give them? Or do we simply need to help create a positive experience for them? Can we somehow re-frame the past experiences they have had with books and get them to reinvest, if even for a moment?" (emphasis added)
The Reading Connection's programs are all about helping kids experience the joy, excitement and empowerment that reading can provide. Our Read-Alouds provide fun, no-stress experiences with books. We purposely conduct Read-Alouds that are exciting and interactive and include hands-on experiences and lots of conversation to show kids that reading doesn't always have to be solitary or school-related.
Helping kids become regular and passionate readers involves not just supporting their identity as readers but also creating a community where they can share their experiences and be supported by fellow readers.
Again, Ms. Ripp's insights apply to the community building aspect of our programs.
"...[O]ne voracious reader will never be enough in order to get books in the hands of children. Finding allies in your school or community is important, bringing them in to book-talk books or simply having reading discussions with them is huge for reaching more students. Creating a visible reading culture is important as well.
It seems to me that often our self-identified nonreaders are also the ones that feel school is not a place for them. So we have to find a way of making them feel like they matter, like this place is for them, and that together we can create an experience that they want to be a part of."TRC volunteers play a crucial role in creating that reading culture and helping kids develop a positive reading self-image. By talking with kids about books and kids' interests, feelings and experiences, our volunteers build relationships with the kids around books. These relationships of mutual respect and curiosity foster kids' identities as readers and valued community members.
Like Ms. Ripp, TRC wants all kids to be (and identify as) regular and passionate readers. Beyond the mechanics of getting through a Read-Aloud, we always try to build motivation and enthusiasm -- two essentials that can mean the difference between building strong reading skills or giving up.
Once again, in Ms. Ripp's words,
"In the end, however a reader identifies, it really comes down to us to create an experience that will help them find amazing books, support them as they grow, and create a community of readers."At The Reading Connection, our goal is that every child will be a regular and passionate reader. All of our programs are designed help kids develop identities as curious, joyful, regular, passionate readers and build reading communities that they can belong to.
*Creating Lifelong Readers: Two English Teachers Discuss What Works With Their Students, moderated by Shannon Maughan, August 19, 2016
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