Make or Break

I purposely divided my posts into raising readers and literacy learners because I felt both of these topics were ones I was passionate about, but would appeal to different audiences (and if you know me well I am a little crazy about organization). As I sat down to write this post tonight I am reminded of how much each of these areas overlap in my life. You’ll see how very shortly.
I have been a reading specialist now for 8 years. I’d love to say I confidently and bravely transitioned from the classroom to this role, but if I’m being honest it was a move that came with hesitation, fear and some second guessing.  Thanks to some amazing people in my life who saw things in me I hadn’t yet I was able to take a leap of faith. They were right, this was where I was meant to be. Teaching reading to children and supporting and coaching teachers in the teaching of reading is a passion I didn’t foresee sitting in my undergrad classes oh so many years ago.
When I took this position RtII had just begun as our framework for providing reading intervention in my district. It really was the perfect transition for someone starting in a new position. I could make it my own. Changes were already necessary and expected. In the 8 years since I’ve been striving to provide the best instruction and experiences to meet our students’ reading needs, which are often widely varied and very challenging. Within the last year and a half the intervention teacher and I decided we needed some reinventing both from our instructional practices and of our students’ views of reading and intervention. We’ve learned a lot and I hope that by sharing our journey it may be of help to fellow educators reaching each day to do the best for our young readers. What I share today came from my role as a mom, but powerfully impacted my role as an educator (there’s that overlap I warned you about).

Don’t underestimate the power you have to make or break a reader. Let me say that again (add in dramatic effect here), don’t underestimate the power you have to make OR break a reader.
My son has had a fairly effortless journey into reading. He had teachers who shared their love of reading throughout his early elementary years and he grew, moving through the levels right on track. He found chapter books and took off in second grade becoming an advanced reader. He read with us and by himself every night, devoured series after series and talked about his reading constantly. Then he started a new school year. Somewhere between fractions and state capitals his journey as a reader veered off course. It wasn’t even noticeable at first. Slowly he stopped reading on his own each night, his excited sharing of the latest book in a series gradually faded away and not one single book title made it on his list for his birthday that year. Just like the unnoticed gaining of those 5 “extra” pounds we didn’t see it until it had already happened.
There was no passion for reading, no shared love of texts, no classroom library bursting at the seams and most importantly no daily, sacred, untouchable time to independently read books of choice in his classroom. It didn’t matter that we had continued reading with him every night, that we had bought books and visited the library as we had always done, that we had continued to hold reading sacred in our home, someone else had a greater impact on our son as a reader and that was powerful to realize.
We did not quite realize the extent to which he had changed as a reader until we saw the journey back this year. He was blessed with a teacher this year who clearly loves reading and shares that every day. He raves about her classroom library selection and joyously shared with us at the beginning of the year that he has time to read every single day. His Christmas list this year was almost entirely books and his face lights up again as he shares the newest book he has finished. I couldn’t wait to share all of that with her at our conference and I thanked her for what she is doing every day.

Thankfully for my son he was a strong reader to begin with, was blessed with another wonderful teacher and found his way back. But, it was a powerful lesson for me as to the impact we as educators have every day on the lives of our students. In our case one teacher had a more powerful impact on who our son was as a reader than we did, despite 9 years of a deep and rich reading life at home. We have the power to make OR break our readers, please wield that power very carefully.


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