A Year Seems Like Forever


So, I’m participating in the #cyberpd community for the first time evah! The opportunity to read, reflect and share with a group of like-minded, or maybe not-so-like-minded educators is an exciting one, and forces me out of my summer bubble. I get the chance to do some professional development from the comfort of my front porch. For anyone reading this blog post who is not part of the #cyberpd community, you can find more information here. Come join us, it’s probably not too late.

So, away we go….

There is much to explore in this book. So many ideas that make me want to shout “Amen!” and throw my fist in the air. And there are some that have less meaning, or power, for me because of the position I’m in, or maybe the kind of school I work at. As a K-8 school librarian, my focus is always on getting the right book into the hands of the right kid.  To encourage them to read widely; to graze on all kinds of books and then to dig deep into the ones that speak to them. Mostly, I want them to love to read. I am not a reading teacher, or literacy specialist, but I work closely with my colleagues who are, to try and help them find new and interesting, or new and exciting, or new and literary books into their hands, as well. I am constantly encouraging teachers to read children’s literature, to read what the kids are reading and to find ways to incorporate those books into their curriculum.

When I hear students groan about how much they hated reading Tuck Everlasting in class, my heart breaks a little. When they roll their eyes at In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, I cringe. I always wonder how they would respond if they had to read and answer text questions for The Lightning Thief or Harry Potter. Would they still love it? Would it be a chore? Would it be forever ruined for them? Maybe.

And that’s the part of Dynamic Teaching that makes my heart sing; the notion of not scaffolding the reading of a novel in such a way as to suck the joy out of the book. Certainly, Natalie Babbitt didn’t write Tuck Everlasting so that every child could understand the power of figurative language. She wrote a story that was in her heart, that needed to be told, and she just happened to do it quite beautifully. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could experience that kind of storytelling without it being broken down into tiny little bits? To have every nuance shared as a discussion point or a text question? I love that Vinton, and evidence, suggests that students learn quite well from their peers and the free-form discussions they might have, if given the opportunity.

Something that really resonated with me was this diagram:


Vinton talked about how many classrooms have the writing process posted somewhere in the classroom for students to use as a guide, and how there isn’t an equivalent for reading. It reminded me that in several of the classrooms in our school, I’ve seen teachers post a list of things that good readers do, or strong readers, or some other adjective that I’m forgetting at the moment. Anyway, it included things like ” A good reader visualizes the story as they read” or ” A good reader sometimes re-reads sections to better understand” etc… I think the lists are sometimes generated by the students and sometimes by the teachers. As a librarian, it’s the kind of discussion with students I would love to have been part of the in the classroom, not just have it in the library, but coordinated with the teacher. A united front of encouraging good reading habits.

I don’t want this response to be overlong, and boring. So, my big takeaway from the first section is really about letting kids find their way to asking the big questions in the books they are reading, to hearing the big ideas that their peers are thinking. But, I don’t want to just reflect on the reading, I want to have an action plan for the coming school year, some things I can do, both big and small, from the library that will help teachers and students. I’m going to challenge myself to find ways to get into the classrooms, to offer help with book groups, or literature circles, or whatever, and help teachers plan their lessons around reading.

To that end, I ask this community of educators how can the school librarian be more helpful to you in your quest to get kids thinking more deeply about their reading? How can we collaborate with you to encourage problem-solving?