My students and I launched our second semester by celebrating our reading accomplishments (so far) and looking ahead to new reading experiences. I created an online survey where students could reflect on their reading habits, recommend books to each other, and set reading goals.
I decided to model answering the questions by taking the survey in front of my students. Working through the survey while projecting it on a screen, my fifth graders tried to guess my answers.
We write and talk together a lot, and the kids know me well. They know that I love coffee, green (except neon green), and owls. They know that I have a scar on my ear from a dog bite. Of course, they know I love to read and I want them to love reading, too. It amused me when they couldn’t answer questions about my reading preferences that well.
Reading out loud question #4, I asked, “What is my favorite genre and why?”
Alex called out, “I know this one! You like books about animals. You give me snake books all of the time.”
“Yeah, you give me dog books, too, and you brought that animal poetry book. I know you like reading about animals,” Destiny agreed.
“I think Mrs. Miller likes historical fiction. She recommended Number the Stars to me,” Ryleigh said.
“You always read us sad books like Wonder and The Little Match Girl,” Sam said, “but that’s not a genre, is it?”
My students began bickering, each one claiming that my favorite genre was their favorite genre.
Hailey chimed in, “I think Mrs. Miller likes to read anything, as long as it’s good.”
You and I have that in common, Hailey, I thought. I laughed and agreed, “That’s true, Hailey. I read a little bit of everything. When I was your age, I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Greek mythology.”
Neil and Jeremy, diehard Lightning Thief fans, gave a little, “Woot!”
As much as I have influenced my students’ reading habits over the years, they have influenced mine. Some time ago, I realized that I gravitated towards the students who loved the same books I did, like fantasy epics and books about animals. Was I missing an opportunity to connect with some of my students or connect them with books? I couldn’t let my book preferences favor certain kids over others in my class.
Since that time, I have pushed myself to read more widely than twelve-year old Donalyn did. Reading out of my personal tastes benefits my students and me:
- Trying a little bit of everything keeps my reading life fresh and exposes me to books that I might not have tried.
- I can recommend books to my students that match their tastes, not mine.
- My students appreciate each other as readers and don’t feel pressure to like the same books.
- I communicate to my students that whatever we are reading, and whoever we are as readers—it’s all good.
Linda Gambrell often says, “Kids read what we bless.” If we want kids to find themselves as readers, value each other, and take risks–both in reading and in life, we must bless their books–and them.