Yeah, so this happened:
My little Book Whisperer, which turns five-years-old this month, received its worst review. I’ll admit HH’s words hurt my feelings. I read it out loud to my husband and texted a few friends about it. At first, I was offended. Don’t I know how mainstream my ideas are? Anyone who’s read anything knows how to engage children with reading. My ideas are common knowledge to all teachers. I wish HH was right. Unfortunately, HH presumes that most traditionally trained teachers know best practices in language arts instruction, and apply these practices in their classrooms.
HH, your experiences are not my experiences. Sadly, I’ve never worked in a school where more than a handful of teachers know who Richard Allington or Peter Johnston are. I’ve worked in schools where no one reads children’s books, including the librarian. I weep because my daughters will never have a high school teacher like Penny Kittle or Kelly Gallagher. Instead, Sarah, spent 7th grade pre-AP English filling out S.E. Hinton crossword puzzles. I wish more teachers believed what you and I believe, HH, but they don’t.
HH, it’s clear that you and I are kindred teachers, shaped by the same body of knowledge. You and I both know that “students need time to read and teachers must be avid and passionate readers.” I’m glad that you live and teach in a world were these concepts are widely understood, but a lot of teachers and kids have never seen your world. Are you naïve that many of our colleagues—pressured to prepare students for endless, mindless tests—have jettisoned best practices like unnecessary cargo under an onslaught of mandates and accountability initiatives?
Even in schools where teachers understand and implement research-proven instruction, many must battle ignorant administrators who lack a fundamental knowledge of quality instruction. They struggle with parents who don’t value reading or support their children academically. I’m invited to speak in schools that want to improve their test scores, but the kids don’t have books to read and parent volunteers run the library. They don’t get it.
I’m glad, HH, that you live and teach in a world where children have engaging, accessible books and time to read them. I’m glad that your colleagues and you read. I’m glad that your school community supports reading. I’m glad that my dream—a place where children love reading and adults model reading lives exists somewhere in the world.
It sounds like Paradise. I hope I see it some day.
HH, I wish your review is true. My entire body of work should be common knowledge by now, but it isn’t. Trust me, when I say that I’m doing my part to see that it is. I know a lot of teachers, librarians, administrators, authors, and parents who strive every day to make reading better for kids. It comforts me that you are out there, too. It’s great that you don’t suffer the same obstacles to good teaching that many of us do.
I’m still mad that you didn’t like my beloved Book Whisperer, though. It’s just another book about teaching reading to you, but anyone who really knows me understands that The Book Whisperer is my memoir. When I open that book, memories fall out of it—a sea of students’ names, book titles, field trips, lessons, and conversations. Besides my two daughters, I know that The Book Whisperer is my shining achievement. I’m proud of it. You don’t have to like it or see it as groundbreaking. I love every one of the students in that book. Our years together matter. Your opinion doesn’t fit into the picture.
Share what you know with as many people as you can, HH. I’m still learning how to be a good teacher. I hope you still think there’s something to learn.
Professional Development Discussion Opportunity
**Talking with Teri Lesesne this week, we discovered a shared interest in reading and discussing several influential research articles together. Join us for a Twitter discussion of Richard Allington’s “Every Child, Every Day,” on Sunday, April 13th at 7 pm Central.