Yesterday, something magical happened in my Children’s Literature course for pre-service elementary teachers. My phone had ticked down from 18 minutes, and the bell began to chime, signaling the end of our reading time. I slid my finger over the alarm to turn it off, tucked an index card into my book to mark the page, and looked up. Not a single person lifted their eyes from their book. Not a single person made a move to mark their page. They all kept reading as if the alarm hadn’t sounded. They were in the zone.
I sat there waiting, and they just kept reading.
So I did the only thing I could do: I opened my book and read a few more pages with them.
I feel like that’s the day you know you’ve got them: when the timer goes off, and every single reader in the room keeps reading.
It was a small group in Children’s Literature yesterday. Absenteeism is always a problem in spring semester, and the problem gets worse after spring break. But it meant that we could talk books with the whole class rather than in small groups.
Here’s what they’re reading right now:
- Vanishing Girls
- The Midwife’s Apprentice
- The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
- You’re Welcome, Universe
- Brown Girl Dreaming
- Lucky Broken Girl
- Sure Signs of Crazy
I’m reading Macy Macmillan and the Rainbow Goddess, which was read first by a student and enthusiastically recommended to me. I’m sure it will make the rounds when I’m done.
In May, I will survey them to find out what made the difference in their reading lives this semester, but I already know what their answers will be. For all the hand wringing we do about how to get kids reading, the formula is always the same: book talks, access to good books, book stacks made just for them, a teacher who reads and talks about books, time to read in class, enthusiastic read-alouds to introduce them to new authors. If it seems simple, that’s because it is.
What I don’t do is probably just as important: no tests, no quizzes, no logs, no journals, no projects. What do we do when we finish a book? We tell some other people about it, and then we find something else to read.
How do I know my kids are reading? I don’t need reading logs or quizzes to tell me that. I only need that moment in class when the timer goes off, and everyone keeps reading.