If I could change just one thing about the elementary education and secondary English education majors I teach, it would be this: they would all love to read and write. I believe a love of reading and writing is a prerequisite to creating a classroom where children and teenagers become avid, engaged readers and writers.
Even those students who do enter college with a love of reading and writing may find their commitment to their own literate lives tested and challenged by the requirements of their college courses. We rarely read and write for pleasure in college: we read and write to dissect, analyze, criticize, evaluate. The essential features of a literate life—pleasure in reading and writing, connection between our selves, our lives, and the texts we read and write, choice in reading and writing for our own purposes—are largely missing from school literacy.
Ideally, teacher education courses would focus at least as much on pre-service teachers’ identities as readers, writers, and learners as on content and technical knowledge. In the meantime, pre-service teachers can focus their #summerPD on discovering or rediscovering the joy of reading and writing, on developing their own literate identities.
Here are 10 ways to get started.
- Reread an old favorite. Revisiting a book that you loved back when you did love to read is an easy reminder of the joy of reading. Even if you have to go back to early childhood, everyone has a fond memory of some book.
- Get a library card and check out the New Books shelf. Reading something brand new that isn’t required for school can feel so indulgent.
- Read books that aren’t good for you. By this, I mean no catching up on the classics you’ve missed. Unless, of course, reading classics is what brings you joy. But far too often, English majors want to cram their summer full of more “ought to” reading of books we feel ashamed of having missed. The school year is already full of “have to” reading. Make your summer reading about you.
- Find your comfort genre. I spent the summer after I finished my Ph.D. consuming Tony Hillerman mysteries and YA fiction. Now, my comfort genres are middle-grade fiction, graphic novels, and cookbooks.
- Go short. Poetry. Picture books. Essays. Flash fiction. Short formats require less of a commitment and often pack more of a punch.
- Start a writer’s notebook. A writer’s notebook is a space to explore and play, to take risks, to capture life. No tool has more powerfully transformed my teaching or affected my life than my writer’s notebook.
- Write without thinking about purpose, audience, product, publication. Just write. Every day if you can. I like to find inspiration in one of my favorite books about writing. I’ll dip in, read a few pages, then find myself more than ready to write for 15 or 20 minutes.
- Buddy up. Meet a friend at a coffee shop for a writing session. Read and discuss a novel with your best friend or your mom. One of the great joys of literacy is the community that develops around reading and writing.
- Create a dedicated space for yourself as a reader and writer. Even if it’s just a corner on the couch. Collect your TBR (to-be-read) pile and stack it nearby. Have your writer’s notebook on hand. Get some good light and some strong coffee and settle in.
- Start now. Nothing will more surely suck the joy out of life than good intentions perpetually postponed.