Two Writing Teachers on Tuesdays. For the month of March, we are posting a slice daily.
For the past several months, I have thought about the characteristics of confident, aware readers. Is it something innately unique to these readers or can teachers and parents foster it? I know many of my Nerdy Book Club friends foster this regularly in their students, but how do I share those tips most effectively with teachers who may just be starting on this journey?
My personal experience with this started with my niece (well I call her my niece) who just turned 13 years old. I have been reading with her since she was a baby. At the beginning of first grade, she could read Cam Jansen mysteries and by the end of first grade she had moved onto Nancy Drew. After a long car trip, she came home and asked if I knew how Cam Jansen and Nancy Drew were alike. I smiled and asked her to tell me what she was thinking about. She quickly rattled off several similarities. I was curious and flipped the question. So, how were they different? It took her a little time to think about it but she was spot on with her responses. I loved watching her develop a passion for reading.
At the end of 2nd grade, I gave her Among the Hidden by Margaret Haddix Peterson. She read the book and then we went out for frozen yogurt for a two person book club. This was only the first of many books we would discuss over a cup of frozen goodness. If you were wondering if Among the Hidden was too advanced for a barely 8 year old, I wondered that too. However, when I asked her if she got the whole "two children rule", she made a comparison to China's one child law. She also could discuss the class system in the book and make connections beyond the book. I loved when she recently wrote Peterson saying that Among the Hidden was the book that turned her into a reader. I can also see how her current love for adventure and dystopian novels originated with that first novel.
Over the years, we went on to share books, attend author events, and discuss what we are reading. I love getting a text from her when she finds a line in a book and just has to share. I chuckled when she finished The Hunger Games and frantically texted me looking for Catching Fire. And smiled when she created an instagram page (or whatever it is called) around The Book Thief book & movie.
Last year, she fell in love with Gareth Hind's graphic novel of The Odyssey. I think she literally read it 20 times. I tossed her the copy of Hind's Beowulf graphic novel just to see what she would do. She returned it to me with the comment that "she just wasn't ready for it yet". I was excited that she was able to know what she was or wasn't ready for. Recently, she read Gris Grimly's graphic novel of Frankenstein, and I wouldn't be surprised if she picked up the original Frankenstein at some point. She had clearly become a confident and aware reader. I noticed this again recently when she read Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I was curious what she thought especially since I know she isn't that thrilled about all that "romantic stuff" yet. She told me she liked the book and then indicated she just skipped "those scenes". I smiled. I was definitely proud of her. She knows herself as a reader.
Today, I met a first grader who reminded me of my niece. She could tell me what she liked to read. Not only was her reading level commensurate with her comprehension level but she could verbally and in writing discuss what she read. I found myself writing down book recommendations for her and watching as she put them in a safe place to take home to mom. Sadly, I will not be able to follow her reading journey, but I do hope there will be those around her that will share book recs and go out for a frozen yogurt to talk about a book and continue to support her reading journey.
How are you encouraging and supporting confident, aware readers? Love to hear your stories.