No More Language Arts and Crafts

I’ll admit that I hold my children’s teachers to a higher than reasonable standard. Would you want my kid in your English class? As a parent, I could be a burr in your saddle. I get that.

I’m not a harassing parent, I promise. Most of my children’s teachers have no idea who I am, other than Celeste and Sarah’s mom. That’s how it should be.

On the other hand, my children’s teachers don’t know who Penny Kittle is. They don’t know who Kristin Ziemke is. They don’t know who Kelly Gallagher is.

Heck, my children’s teachers don’t know who Nancie Atwell and Lucy Calkins are. It doesn’t matter if they’ve read my books about teaching reading, but it does matter when my children’s teachers haven’t read a book or article about teaching reading in 20 years.

A line divides parents who know a lot about reading and their children’s less-knowledgeable teachers. What can we teacher-parents do when our children have poor reading instruction at school? I may not have my own classroom this year, but this reading war front line cuts across my lawn. It stretches across my dining room table—limiting and defining my children’s reading lives.

My oldest granddaughter, Emma, spends an hour and a half at our house every morning and afternoon. My husband walks Emma to first grade. We help her with homework. Celeste, my older daughter, joked with us last week, “Andrew and I don’t think we’re are going to have to worry about Emma’s reading log all year. It’s always filled out when we pick her up.”

Of course, I’m going to read with her. You can bet your tail feathers that I will monitor my grand baby’s reading homework.

Emma has a reading log. Each day, she’s supposed to read for 20 minutes. We record the book titles for what she reads and sign Emma’s log. Kids with unsigned reading logs receive consequences at school. Emma’s vague on what happens because her log is always signed.

the troublemakerLast week, Emma and I re-read three outstanding wordless picture books, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo, and Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo, a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Filling out her reading log, Emma said, “We can’t write those books down, Mimi. We didn’t read any words.”

These books are standouts—amazing pieces of storytelling. Award-deserving. Emma recommends them, too.

Sadly, they’re not reading log worthy.

Somewhere in Texas, on a first grade teacher’s desk, sits a reading log with my signature on it. I have publicly denounced reading logs for a decade, but I still sign one every night for my granddaughter. I feel the injustice every time I hold the pen.

And the world spins madly on.

Our younger daughter, Sarah, is a high school sophomore this year. Sarah is a reader. Well, Sarah was a reader. Her dad and I hope she will be a reader in the future. She doesn’t read much any more. Burdened with pointless assignments for English class, Sarah doesn’t have time to read or write at home. Her English teacher doesn’t give Sarah and her classmates time to read or write at school, either.

Sarah is in the gifted and talented program. She’s an International Baccalaureate student. She takes an advanced English course. Sarah’s first project this year? Make a collage about The Beast from The Lord of the Flies. Her second project? On the corners of a tissue box, share your hopes, dreams, fears, and personal creed. I guess Sarah’s teacher needed Kleenex.

Sarah told us that the kids didn’t even share their boxes with each other. They just stacked their boxes on a table. That’s where kids’ hopes and dreams belong—in the back of the room.

Two weeks into school, and Sarah still hasn’t read a book or visited the school library with her class. The Lord of the Flies was assigned for summer reading.

Last week, Sarah’s teacher launched a discussion about “why reading matters” and “what makes a book worthy.” She lectured the class for an hour about literary merit. She never asked students to contribute their opinions about the importance of reading and the value of books. What could Sarah and her classmates possibly know about reading? She’s the teacher. She knows why reading matters.

It’s clear that my children’s teachers value school-based definitions of reading. Reading matters outside of school, too. I’m glad Emma and Sarah learned this at home, but what about the kids who don’t?

On Facebook this weekend, I invited friends to share the worst reading assignments they’ve seen as students, parents, and teachers. In many cases, our children complete the same boring, teacher-directed reading assignments we did 30 years ago. Putting low-level comprehension questions on iPads doesn’t improve the questions.

My Facebook query opened a floodgate. Dioramas, book reports, paragraph and chapter summaries, Accelerated Reader quizzes—teachers confessed to assigning landslides of pointless busy work to their students. Parents bemoaned burdensome reading logs and worksheets. Librarians complained about teachers’ restrictive book selection criteria that prevent children from self-selecting books—unreasonable page limits, reading level boundaries, and narrow genre requirements.

What are children really learning from us about reading?

I’m not a perfect teacher. I’ve assigned some crummy, waste-of-time, language arts and crafts projects to my students over the years. Cereal Box Biographies, novel unit packets, and vocabulary crossword puzzles—my students churned out a lot of mindless work. It finally occurred to me that if I hated grading 98 cereal boxes, my students hated making them.

I’m still learning how to be a better teacher. I’ve missed a lot of chances to connect my students with reading. I’ve created negative reading experiences in my classroom. I didn’t know what I know now. I learned. I grew. I evolved. I improved. I was a novice teacher once, but I’m not new any more. When you know better, you do better. No excuses.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2nd can’t offset a year of reading logs and book reports. Our children must spend more time reading than they spend completing reading-related activities. Generating grades shouldn’t drive teaching decisions. Our children must develop positive reading identities. Worksheets don’t value readers or reading. Children should not become readers in spite of school.

At some point, ignorance becomes a choice. When teachers reject evidence-based teaching practices in favor of outdated traditions, it’s a choice. When parents endure the disrespectful, useless reading work our children bring home, it’s a choice.

Share what you know. Learn as much as you can. Build relationships. When we remain silent—afraid to rock the boat, offend a teacher, or question an administrator, it’s a choice. What choices do our children have?

We must advocate for children’s reading lives, or they won’t have reading lives.

If we don’t speak up, too many children will make the only reading choice they have left. They will choose not to read.

*** Note added on September 14, 2014.**

The response to this post has been overwhelming. While most of the comments I have received in person, through Twitter and Facebook, and here on the blog have been positive, a few have been hateful and derisive–including curse words, cruel remarks about my children, and personal attacks–which I have chosen not to approve on the blog or respond to elsewhere. I cannot possibly restate everything that I have written and spoken over the years about meaningful reading instruction in a single blog post. I cannot summarize decades of reading research, either. What I can do is respond to specific questions or remarks.

Yes, I know that reading wordless books doesn’t provide my granddaughter the same skill development that decoding words does. What wordless books offer is practice generating stories by inferring visual cues from the illustrations. This is higher-level thinking–valuable for young readers to practice.

It bothers me that my granddaughter is learning in first grade that some types of reading “count” and some don’t.

Reading logs do not hold children and parents accountable for reading home. Reading logs hold children and parents accountable for filling out reading logs.

I am not against the arts. I am not against artistic expression in language arts class. I believe that inviting children to choose how they want to respond to a text is better than assigning the same project to everyone. Students should spend the majority of language arts class reading, writing, and discussing reading and writing. I believe writing is art and reading is art appreciation. We must be critical of activities that crowd the Ianguage arts out of language arts classes.

I do not think I am better than other teachers. I admit in this post that I have made mistakes and continue to learn. Reading professional books and articles, attending conferences, joining Twitter chats. attending PLC meetings, talking with colleagues, enrolling in courses–I invest substantial time learning from OTHER teachers. I am grateful for the vast learning community of colleagues who teach me every day. Like many of you, I know that being a good teacher demands investment in my personal learning.

I appreciate the many parents and professional colleagues who have engaged in meaningful discourse about this post over the past week. I look forward to learning more from you.

132 responses to “No More Language Arts and Crafts

  1. I remember before the first Harry Potter movie. At my child’s school during recess the playground was quiet and at least 100 kids were reading a book or listening to someone read. There was a time when Harry was only in a book. It was a special time.

  2. All I can say is “AMEN SISTER!”

  3. I agree with you about students choosing their books and thank you for standing up for them, but I have a friendly suggestion from one educator to another: There could be a better word choice in this situation than “Nazi.” Please think twice before comparing someone who restricts book choices to someone who murders Jews and others. That word is tossed around a lot in a way that minimizes what happened during the Holocaust. I used to do the same thing until, thankfully, someone called my attention to it. Some people find this offensive and you might not even realize it. Thanks for listening.

  4. The day I knew I was through with public education was the day I heard the principal of the elementary school where I worked as the librarian announce at the staff meeting (in the library, of course) that reading aloud to students and giving them time to read silently were “not purposeful activities.” That time should be spent only on “direct instruction.” I could have shrugged that nonsense off if I’d thought he was expressing his own personal idiocy but I knew the guy never had any original thoughts, and that he was repeating what he’d been told by those above him to share. I cannot recall a more depressing day in my career as an educator.

  5. I used to read to my 6th graders everyday for 10 or 15 minutes after lunch/recess. My principal told me that 6th graders didn’t need to be read to! My students loved it. Some of them lived in homes without books and had never had anyone read to them. I remember my 6th grade teacher reading to us. I loved it. I hope that some of my students will have such fond memories,too.

  6. Reblogged this on McCarthy of Hudson and commented:
    I would say it, but she says it so well. Thanks, Donalyn for speaking up for kids! This post from Donalyn Miller is a MUST READ for parents, teachers and anyone who impacts the life of a child.

  7. These sentiments ring so true to me as a teacher, parent, and district level curriculum coordinator. I am a high school math teacher by training, but spent several years as an instruction coach and serving on district content literacy committees where I became very familiar with the works of many that you mentioned, and did my best to share with the teachers in my school. Unfortunately, the same thing is happening in the world of mathematics, where my professional life has returned. Teachers have not heard of Dan Meyer, Jo Boaler, Skip Fennel, Marilyn Burns, Laney Sammons, John Van De Walle, etc. and continue to give weekly timed fact tests and assign endless drill and kill worksheets that send students the wrong message about what it means to be good at math, even when all of the literature tells us that we should be working on developing students’ number sense and problem-solving skills. I am working to change this, but change is hard, and slow, and I grow more and more impatient as I see the effects on my own children’s education, who are bringing home reading logs and cereal box book reports along with their math worksheets.

  8. I am an English teacher and it makes me cringe to read the above. Years ago (more than a decade?) our department chair pushed the reading log system on us. It did not work; people lie; and “real” readers hate it. I give my students time to read in class at least twice per week; the research I’ve read says it needs to be in at least twenty minutes intervals. We are currently using goodreads online where kids can go and rate the books they’ve read and get recommendations for future reading and it seems to be helping especially the kids who have trouble finding something they like to read. I give them extra credit if they join my goodreads reading chat circle and chat about books they’ve read. Worksheets, yuk! Reading logs, horrid! Have conversations about books. And I love it when my students refer me to great books to read. I try to read at least one book per week during the school year and lots more during the summer and holidays. Loving to read and talking about what we read gives our students way more ideas and fosters a love of reading than any worksheet I’ve ever found.

  9. I have been a voracious grader since pre-K. I actually remember fondly both the puppet re-enactment of a scene from Call of the Wild, and keeping a response journal and making a collage in college while reading War and Peace. (In the professor’s defense, it was a Russian department class, not a lit class per se, and this specific assignment was to share our response to the text in any format EXCEPT a formal essay.) I also liked creating my own book jacket for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in 6th grade. That being said, I liked all three books, liked all three classes, and already liked reading. Not the same as a reluctant reader being assigned busy work instead of making an honest connection and response to the story. I just wanted to point out that not all “arts and crafts” are a waste of time.

  10. Okay, great. You told us everything you despise about “pointless work”. Why not spend your time writing a blog about what teachers should be doing. You’ve spent your time creating a “cereal box” instead of addressing the issue, I think. Whine and bemoan away but offer a solution or what you would like to see change.

    • I’ve written two books about this subject and I’ve been blogging and speaking about reading instruction for a long time. I’ve provided some additional resources free on this website and my slideshare page.

  11. Please join the Read Aloud 15 MINUTES. Every child. Every parent. Every day. National Campaign http://www.readaloud.org. We need your voice!

  12. I am so sorry for your negative experiences and wish that you could see the dedicated, literate people that work in my school. We are passionate about connecting kids with books and the astonishing information flow of the twenty-first century in a relevant and engaging manner. Before you criticize, volunteer to read aloud to a class or listen to a struggling reader, help out in a school library beleaguered by budget cuts, and thank the teacher that taught you to read in a simpler time when politicians and corporations weren’t quite so intolerant of the joy of reading.

    • I have taught and provided staff development in many great schools and know scores of incredible teachers encouraging kids to read. Perhaps, this is the source of my frustration–overall, my children have not had these great experiences.

  13. Sorry about the “thats” for “who”….

  14. Donalyn,
    I complained equally loudly the third, nope make that the fourth time, that my son had to create a solar system model for science. That was not “creating” and was also NOT at the top of the DOK! It was boring compliance with no criteria that made it more specific . . . it meant more in kindergarten!

    Meaningful choices for students that transfer to the real world, not busy work that isn’t even acknowledged or talked about! AMEN!

  15. I am working on creating a Book Whisperer Frenzy in my schools. Teachers are loving it and I am going to attach this post to the book as it circulates. I am grateful for this book and my experiences on Twitter. I have grown in ways I am not sure I would have otherwise

  16. While I couldn’t agree more about your desire to provide authentic reading experiences that encourage a LOVE of reading, I ask that you please stop dissing the teachers! They are your target audience, and you don’t attract them to your way of thinking by saying how stupid their current practices are. Most teachers would respond more favorably if you’d provide encouragement and ideas about how to implement what you propose.

    • Mary, I provide support and encouragement to teachers every day in every way that I can. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for my own children to have my advocacy in a blog post.

  17. My choice (as a teacher and parent) was to homeschool my daughter beginning in the second grade. She is now a junior and has spent years devouring books and discussing them with me and her friends. She participates in National Novel Writing Month, has written a screenplay, and produced a short film. Authors are her heroes. She will do AP English Literature next year as a homeschooler and is fortunate to be able to tailor the reading list to her tastes. I am a reading specialist and YA author. I’ve worked in classrooms and now work privately with students. Yes, I am often saddened by the assignments they have to do. However, I really believe that these teachers think the assignments are worthwhile. Ignorance is bliss. I am still hopeful, though. When I go to reading conferences, I see hundreds of teachers eager to learn new ways. For those left behind, we need to start a reading revolution.

  18. You sound smug and self-important to me. Sounds like you are celebrating yourself and your own marvelous decisions and choices. The world is a wide, varied place, with many opinions, ideas, and truths. It’s really tiresome to read the words of self-righteous people with singular thinking and no tolerance for those with varying ideas and opinions about literacy. Maybe I’m just tired after a long day of teaching, trying to have all the charm and appeal of a circus performer so my screen addicted first graders will find me interesting enough to tune in. We are doing our very best every single day for the children who come through our doors. I would loathe the burden of a self-congratulatory parent like you on my parent contact list. You don’t know everything, and you most certainly don’t demonstrate compassion or understanding for hardworking teachers and struggling families.

    • I have been a teacher for 13 years and have worked with many wonderful colleagues. I understand the hard work involved. I admit that I’ve struggled in my own teaching and have made many mistakes (I say so in this post.)

  19. Donalyn, you have inspired me for years, and I have shared your books with many. I give credit to you when I share my reading life with my own students. Thank you for being bold and saying what needs to be said. I am shocked to see those respond to your blog without any knowledge of who you are – you speak in truth and with published experience. You hit the nail on the head when you write, “At some point, ignorance becomes a choice. When teachers reject evidence-based teaching practices in favor of outdated traditions, it’s a choice.” Any literacy leader that values the importance of literacy learning and moving ahead would not be in the dark about your ideas. As a teacher of literacy, I don’t feel dissed in the least – I feel challenged. Teachers need to be the lead learner in the room and we need to provide authentic reading and writing for our students. Life-long learning yields vibrant teaching that reaches those kids that never wanted to read, or lost that love somewhere along the road. I thank you for helping me be a better teacher and reader!

  20. Pingback: Thinking, reading, and responding…but, no arts and crafts. | A Teaching Life

  21. Thanks for this! All I can say is Amen!

  22. Thank you, Thank you. I have been saying this to my district for years. I am familiar with all of the authors you listed. I read their books and many like it every year. I don’t have reading logs that must be signed. My students logs show the books they are reading and dates they start and stop them, as well as genre. No tests, no book reviews. They have a reader’s log where they write about their thoughts as they read. They choose the books, they choose what to write about their books. They discuss books, they recommend books. I feel for Sarah. I teach in an IB middle school and refuse all of the fluff. Students are learning when they are reading, writing and discussing what they are reading and writing. Thank you for inspiring others.

  23. Dear Donalyn,
    Thank you for your courage. I too have moments when I seems unfathomable that in this day and age with all we now know about reading and writing and the human brain and learning, after all of the work you, and Dick Allington, Debbie Miller, Fountas and Pinnell, Marie Clay, countless others who have taken the effort (Many on top of their teaching) to help spread the word….why is it there are still those who don’t know, still schools where time, and choice and passion and a hunger to understand and communicate about others and the world are not the cornerstones of literacy instruction. How is it this information is not a part of every undergraduate program? How is it we often get school leadership that does not have knowledge of literacy best practice or at least the mindset to learn about it before making sweeping decisions that pull the rug out from under teachers that do ( and worse from under the children in the schools they lead)? When you know what could be, and it feels a yawning grand canyon away from what is…it is so disheartening. But you and the others are there, making a difference, though at times it must seem you do not. I can only hope eventually we will reach a tipping point.
    In my district, I believe we are beginning to. With the adoption of Fountas and Pinnell, and your books on many teacher’s reading lists this summer (including a book club of all our district Literacy Specialists)..we are developing new understandings. Once the understanding is gained…there is no turning back.

  24. There is still too big a lump in my throat to say what I need to say. Parent of three students who did some pretty crazy “reading” assignments, writing and reading teacher of AP Lit, British Lit and World Lit, woman who remembers exactly where she was when she read Readicide and changed everything she thought about reading…thank you for this post. Just started a new year with a group of 11th graders who still cannot believe that they get to choose what to read, at least part of the time. They already have more open minds and hearts about everything, including Shakespeare.

  25. My children attend a Montessori elementary program with a large classroom library and daily silent reading time of 20-30 minutes, with more time to read and research non-fiction books as part of an uninterrupted, child-led work period. Good Montessori programs are very well aligned with what you suggest, Donalyn: no reading logs, just child-chosen, sustained reading 🙂

  26. Excellent post! New article from AAP supports early childhood literacy. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/06/19/peds.2014-1384.abstract

  27. I find this to be an insightful, spot on article! As a first grade teacher I myself despise reading logs. I would bet my last paycheck that as many as 50%!of parents who fill out the logs out and out make it up.
    This year we have embraced The Daily 5. I am excited to see my students (all A1/A2 ESOL) enjoying the three ways to read a book, reading the pictures, reading the words and retelling the story. I love hearing them share stories as they “read with someone”. Reading is south more than being able to say the words on a page.

  28. The best thing EVER was my kids making a “clubhouse” in their closet and reading Percy Jackson to each other! Reading is more than a rudimentary skill.

    • Agree. I wish I could see that clubhouse. I bet it was awesome. What a wonderful connection to reading the kids expressed on their own!

  29. I am a 14 year veteran of high school English classes. Two of those years were spent in Abu Dhabi, hoping to bring quality reading and writing lessons to the young women I taught there (local Emirati girls, with a mix of knowledge and understanding of English) I would like to comment for teachers who provide daily writing journals for their students. Among the absolute worst assignments I have ever seen involve asking a student to write about his or her own “wonderful” nature in a variety of ways. Two examples of this are: “Tell what makes a person popular. How does it make you feel to be popular.” and “Write about how cool you are. No, really, I mean it.” Of these two assignments, the first was assigned to my own son in 7th grade. When he tearfully told me he couldn’t write about being popular, because he wasn’t, my heart broke for him. I told him to write a redaction to the assignment about how it feels to not be popular. Later I saw the teacher and asked if she had read my son’s response. “Yes, and I never thought of it from a student’s point of view.” Really? You don’t run those exercises through your head as to how a young person, at the brink of adulthood will be able to respond? The second mentioned assignment, about “coolness” was an assignment last week in a class for which I was a one-on-one aide for a learning disabled student. “I don’t know what to write. I’m not cool. I don’t do anything cool and I have nothing to say about being cool.” Fair enough, kiddo. Although I agreed with him, I couldn’t tell him that. Fortunately for me, I was only subbing in that class and could walk away at the end of that class without worrying about what that student would turn in.
    All teachers need to read their assignments and think about the child on the other end of that pen. Many teachers pull assignments from “think tank” sources or internet pages to help them get through the day, the week or the entire year. I admit to doing the same thing. But run that assignment through your head. Imagine the least capable person in your class trying to come up with something to write about. Have some mercy.

  30. I completely agree with you, however, I hope that the teachers you have encountered are not planning these activities on their own. As a Kindergarten teacher of 15 years, I am in a daily struggle between what I know is right and what is expected of me to keep my job. Developmentally appropriate practices are no longer an important aspect of teaching, and yet no one knows why kids are failing in school. We are only allowed to teach according to a scripted curriculum, no one cares what I think about anything. It will be a long 17 years before I can retire.

  31. I am thankful for your books, Donalyn. They changed my perspective. I mentioned them in my interview and how they spoke to me about what the true goal should be – creating lifelong readers. I am thankful for my new principal being open to new ideas. I hope the teachers who misunderstood your blog will read your books and hear your heart.

  32. So glad to find your blog. I couldn’t agree more. I QUIT giving mindless project assignments several years ago. I QUIT giving mindless, time-consuming worksheets. In fact, I QUIT giving homework. My students are simply encouraged to read. The only expectation is that they read what they enjoy. Authentic reading instruction requires authentic reading. Result: more engaged and eager readers. Hooray for my students!!!

  33. Love this. Thank you. I am doing a Kittle/Atwell type writing/reading program with my grade 8s. For the entire hour, I only “teach” for 10-15 min. The rest of the time the students are reading and writing. It works.

  34. I totally agree that reading logs are worthless. It is so easy for parents and students to simply fill these out and never have read a page. I choose not to do reading logs and simply let my students read and discuss books. I expect the students will read nightly but I allow them to choose what they would like to read and form reading groups around a common book.

  35. Thank you for making such a brave post! As a librarian I cringe when teachers give out book reports with page requirements. I used to do the same thing, but once I started allowing students to choose their books, reading changed in my classroom! Keep fighting the good fight!

  36. ❤ And I send hugs along, too to compensate for nastiness sent by others.

  37. Love your point of view! What do you think about the Daily 5? I have teaching my 2nd graders that reading pictures is one way to read a story. Goal is to help them enjoy teading.

  38. Love your post! You speak the truth!

  39. I am a twenty-year veteran of teaching English in Catholic schools. I’m also a voracious, life-long reader; I cannot remember not being able to read. I started teaching after having been a stay-at-home mom to five children so that when I began teaching, I had a tendency to do what made sense to me rather than what other teachers were doing. As a result, I have always rejected worksheets, reading logs, and journaling. I also rejected “projects” that I found hard to grade. Instead, I have chosen books for my students to read that I thought they would enjoy and would lead them to read more. I ask them to write answers to questions that push them to look more deeply into what they read, we discuss a good portion of every class discussing what we’re reading. I also give reading quizzes on a random basis to ensure that students actually do the reading. Those who are reluctant readers have to be given a reason to get started; once they get started, they are often excited to continue. My students enjoy my classes, feel challenged by what I ask them to do, and are successful on the AP English Literature exam as well as on the reading and language portions of other standardized tests. They also find reading in college classes to be more manageable. Yet in recent years, I have found myself losing ground to teachers who make it easy for students to get an “A” in an English class without ever actually reading a book. They journal and make collages which they manage to do well by reading summaries of the books on Sparknotes. And now, students are reluctant to sign up for my classes because they’re “too demanding.” The administration wants me to display student work — how do you display a quiz or an essay or a really insightful response to an analysis question? You can, but it doesn’t look inviting to parents and other classroom visitors in the same way a bunch posters and dioramas do. So preach on. What you advocate will allow students to actually learn how to think while the things you rail against only allow students to earn a particular grade.

  40. Well written! As a Language Arts teacher for many years, I too admit to assigning some bad projects in the name of hoping to make it fun! I am proud to say I have grown and am an advocate for workshop style teacher where kids are given TIME to read and write. It is often the only TIME they will log in a day. Thank you for your great ideas and forget the haters!

  41. Reading your book this summer changed my entire viewpoint on teaching reading. It resonated with what I felt reading instruction should be! And being only 7 weeks into the school year who can say if what I’m doing will truly make a difference in the end, but I can SEE the difference it has made in 7 weeks, and it’s mind boggling. I love having stacks of books on my desk that my students are insisting that unread so we can talk about it. I love the excitement and eager eyes wheni introduce new books I bought into out classroom library. So thank you. For your book, your blog and most of all for believing that educators can and will do what it right for their students!

  42. (nb: I know this blog was written in September. I only just read it)
    How do you destroy “The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe?

    This was my question about my nearly 11 yr old daughter. We read this book together I don’t know how many years ago when we were still homeschooling. She has read it for herself several times. C.S. Lewis is one of our favourite authors. So when she got in the car and stated “I hate TLWW you could have bowled me over with a feather.

    This year has been difficult. Her new school is of the current large open plan community learning type. For a person who likes to read, but needs quiet this has made SSR very difficult. I have watched my reader develop all the avoiding reading techniques in the book. Say what? This kid has been assessed at reading at a 14-16 yr age level. She has admitted to me that sometimes she will read Geronimo Stilton during SSR because it doesn’t require too much thought. I don’t think she’s read a complete book at school all year.

    Library visit? What’s that?

    So how do you destroy TLWW? It’s called Literacy circle. It’s called taking over 13 weeks to drag through a book you can read yourself at home over 2 nights. It’s having to fight (when you’re not a fighter) to get an iPad to read it on because the whole class is reading it. It’s called being a very good reader but being behind the whole class because you’re not willing to fight for that iPad.

    We’ve come up with a way to stop the loss of love but it took some tears. It also took teaching my daughter how to read a book for an assignment without really reading the book. What have I done?

  43. Thanks for this reflective post. I know I share similar experiences – I have been SO IMPRESSED with MANY of my children’s teachers, but not all. I spend loads of time in classrooms across the country. Like any profession in life, there are those who excel, those who might be in the wrong profession, and those who aren’t supported enough to know the difference. I sit on my school board and have deep frustration over “professional development” (often widget training vs. growth). I witness the challenge of “policy” vs. “process”. I watch teachers get worn down. I try to help as much as I can and I applaud the support that you provide, as well as the many others mentioned in this post. Thanks for sharing research, ideas, and encouragement. Lastly, the “risk” of social media is that when we flex our freedom of speech muscle, many will agree and many will disagree. Opinions are something that one has; they don’t need to be defended. So long as they are shared with respect. 🙂

  44. Your words of wisdom are inspiring and make sense, however, they primarily speak about those students who already love to read. How can I inspire students who are struggling readers and students who are fluent readers but just aren’t inspired to read, for various reasons?

    • I have written widely about this topic in my books and articles. Check out Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Linda Rief, too.

  45. Thank you for your powerful and reflective words, Donalyn. As a newer teacher, I felt in over my head starting out especially when it came to reading. But as you stated, “When you know better, you do better.” I’ve learned the truth in this statement even in my first few years. I can honestly tell you I’ve given my First Graders busy work, assignments that I didn’t want to grade, or lifeless guided reading texts hoping for engagement.

    You brought up an interesting argument with your granddaughter’s wordless picture books. I agree, these kinds of books may not practice decoding skills, but they teach children a valuable 21st century literacy skill: visual literacy. A reader’s ability to read pictures as well as the text will foster greater comprehension. Despite a lack of words in these books, children are learning to become visually literate. Unfortunately, most reading logs won’t recognize this valuable skill. Thank you for sharing the three wordless titles in you blog. I look forward to bringing them into my classroom.

    While my teaching still isn’t prefect, I’m choosing to learn and grow from past experiences in hopes that my classroom will reflect the knowledge I continue to acquire. This is my choice, but what are my students choosing? Are they choosing to read outside of school even if there’s not a reading log?

    Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom with teachers, both new and veteran.

  46. Wow! This post has a lot of feeling and emotion behind it. I can certainly see both sides of the fence. On one hand you are an educator and on another, a grandparent. I can agree that not all practices are time-worthy and as only a fourth year teacher I am learning every year. Great teaching, like everything else takes time, effort, and practice. I know it can be frustrating to receive assignments that seem they are simply “busy work” but there may be some motive behind it. Often, I have parents who I HAVE to hold accountable to make sure they are encouraging their child to read at home. Sometimes I send home simple assignments so that my parents are interacting with my students on an educational topic. And, yes, I often think of these as “busy work” but there is something I am trying to achieve through it. Other times, assignments may be just pointless…which can definitely lead to frustration.
    Hopefully through more years of teaching experience and acquiring knowledge through obtaining my Master’s, I will continue to enhance all of my reading practices. When I reflect on my past teaching I am often embarrassed at what I used to do, or have done, but at the same time am so proud at how far I have come and the things I am doing with my students now. I have accepted that being an excellent teacher simply takes time and knowledge. I am lucky and blessed to work and have worked with amazing people through whom I have learned so much from and continue to learn from. I know my teaching practice will continue to get better every year as I yearn to do all that I can for my students while I have them in my classroom.
    Thank you for your thoughts as it provoked worthy reflection of my own practices.

  47. Thank you for your article. I think we should give value to all types of literature and even books without words have value because kids get to use their imagination and can come up with their own words to go along with the pictures. I finds these wordless books a great resource for tapping into children’s creativity and letting them tell the story in their own way. They are also perfect for giving a confidence boost to struggling readers as they don’t actually have to read words in order to read a book! It shows them that not all reading material is intimidating and lets them enjoy the activity! Comics, picture books, magazines, and encyclopedias – children should be encouraged to read whatever sparks their interest so that they can come to love reading in their own unique way.

  48. Children should be allowed to read whatever books they are interested in and should not be discouraged because a book they like does not fit someone’s idea of a good read. If they like picture books, let them enjoy them. If they are into comics, let them read comics. Children should never be discouraged from reading what they like. We should embrace their passions and encourage them to read whatever it is that they are into. Let them develop a love of reading in their own unique way!

  49. After reading this post, there were many aspects that resonated with me. First, is that many students aren’t being given the opportunity to learn to love reading. This was the same for me growing up. Everything I was asked to read for school was an assignment. Never once was I allowed to pick something out that I was interested in to meet the requirements of an assignment. I developed a love of reading on my own (and with the help of the adults around me). Only a handful of times can I say that the books I read for a classroom assignment really were ones I enjoyed (Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ender’s Game), and/or lead me to finding similar books by that author.

    I loved when you described your own imperfections as a teacher. I think this is really brave! Many people think what they have been doing for a long time will always work. They refuse to evolve and grow with the students each year. It is very frustrating (especially from the standpoint of a support teacher who wants to be in the classroom). I love to learn and grow, so it is nice to see teachers who have a wealth of knowledge admit they don’t know it all and desire continued professional development.

    One truly powerful statement (for me) from your post was, “…some types of reading “count” and some don’t.” All types of reading are important. The idea of literacy is constantly changing and, like our students, we all need to explore and adapt to new ideas and understandings. We need to take time to develop the whole child and allow them to explore different genres of text. Students will develop skills of all kinds if they are put in situations where books (and time to read them) are plentiful.

    I am looking forward to continuing reading your books!

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