Recently I have been reading Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide which has me thinking and reflecting on reading, reading instruction and my own development as a reader. When I look back at my school experience, I cannot remember any one teacher who had an impact on me as a reader. Sure, I know my sixth grade teacher read a novel aloud to us and we loved it. My senior AP English teacher had us read Lives of a Cell and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (neither of which I recall much about).
At home, I remember seeing my mother read some, but do not have strong memories of being read to as a child; although, I’m sure I was read to often. No books stand out as childhood favorites. Many my age recall the Anne of Green Gables series, or the Narnia series, neither of which I read growing up. However, today I am a voracious reader - often reading several books at a time.
All this leads me to the readers we teach today. As teachers, are we exposing them to enough text(s)? Are we doing more than the in-class, required reading and the whole-class novel? Are we teaching them enough about reading outside of class? Are we teaching them to read as disciplinarians – in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics?
Gallagher quotes Maryanne Wolf as discussing the need to create “bi-textual readers,” those who read from multiple sources. This is a valuable skill to be taught and I’d say that as digital readers our students have a start in this direction. They may open a website to read about a certain topic and by the end of their online session have clicked well away from the original topic.
However, are we as educators modeling bi-textual reading for students? Do we provide “real-world” writing which supports and enriches our curriculum? Do we look for text(s) of interest to our students which tie to the core curriculum? If not, it would be a relatively easy addition to our curriculum. Keep an eye out for articles from contemporary sources which relate to your content. (I normally keep them in a folder on my computer.) Then, the next time you are in that unit, pull out the article and have students read it. Ask them how it applies to what you are currently studying. Ask them to validate why your current curricular topic is “still” important today. Our students crave real-world connections as proof of why school is relevant to their lives. Let’s do that and build better readers at the same time.