As a children’s book enthusiast/literacy advocate/reading coach and forever and a day second grade teacher, I’m often fielding a core set of parent based questions about their child’s reading life, namely how to best direct it or executive produce it, that is. You might be inclined to say that’s because we live in LA – however I am going to vigorously shake my head and disagree. Whether Chicago, Brazil or L.A.- it doesn’t matter. Seventeen years as a “seasoned” second grade educator and I’m still listening to pretty much to the same “concerns.”
And so, a few weeks ago, in speaking informally with a colleague, the topic regarding her own child’s literacy life emerged. I was once again presented with the golden question. “So, my son still isn’t reading at home for fun. He isn’t picking up a book with regularity and independence. I mean, I make him read to me. He wants me to read to him and I do that too, but I think he needs to read, so I make him read a page then I read a page.”
I saw it coming but then again, I had opened the can of worms, I mean it was I who had asked her the question: Tell me what you do at home? I was prepared to lean in and listen. I let her share and when finished, I acknowledged that yes, having your child read aloud has its benefits and then respectfully went in and pressed. “So, tell me, has policing his reading instiledl in him a love for reading?”
She looked at me Her now widened bright eyes said it all.
“Okay- WOW! Tell me more! she said. I smiled. Appreciating her response and continued, “time and time again I have heard all too similar stories about this tried and true recipe for disaster method for nurturing their young readers. AND, once again, it begs me to circle back and respond in question- How does having your young reader read aloud to you, make them fall in love with books? I mean, how’s that working for ya?
Teacher rule no. 1- always be able to answer (or, better yet, demonstrate): WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
If you’re having to MAKE them read to you- could this “making” very well be defeating your greater goal? Why do this? Are you listening in for fluency, accuracy, phrasing? Are you listening to coach? Or listening to police--- to mandate?
If it’s the former, then I definitely have some tips for HOW to listen, what to listen for, how long to listen for, and how to name what they’re doing well and effectively coach them.
But if your why is all tied up in the latter- to encourage and foster a love of reading then please stop where you are and step away from the young reader.
To lead you must learn to follow. I think to myself.
Are you following?