Recently a conversation has emerged on Twitter about reading. It has been a MASSIVE thing. Questions have been thrown up such as is it important to teach reading? how do you teach reading? why do we need to teach reading? do you need to enjoy reading to be a good teacher of reading? There has been some absolutely incredible conversations come from it. I’ve loved looking through the conversations. Some great points of view, some that I disagree with but some that I agree with. Listening to others’ opinions is vital but knowing that your own opinion will be listened to is important too… and that’s something that I love about Twitter. I can put my opinion out there and there’ll be like minded people out there who agree but there’ll be who question my beliefs without (in the whole) being mean about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some spiteful, unnecessary comments aimed at me but I tend to just ignore those best I can… the good outweighs the bad exponentially on Twitter. So this conversation had me thinking… what do I think? Where do I stand on the reading scale?
To me there is no question… I love reading. It is part of who I am. I am a self-confessed bookworm. And I am not afraid to share that. If you look through my Twitter, my Instagram, my Facebook (or any other social media) and you’ll see that my life is well speckled with books. Everywhere. All kinds of books. Picture books. YA books. Books for adults. Fiction. Non-fiction. I am a bookaholic. Whenever I can be reading, I will be. Reading is quite a big part of my life. Every part of me loves books. I can’t think of a time when I’ve not enjoyed reading. I get so much from reading. And writing. (But I’m not so good at that!) I love getting lost in a book. I am lucky enough to have 2 god daughters and whenever it’s their birthday or Christmas the one present they can guarantee to get from me is books. I love the time I spend with them reading. Right from when they were these little people in my life to now, when they’re 5, and they’re really interested in all of the books. I love the conversations we have. I love that they love books now too.
So being a book lover works in my life as Steph, but what about my life as Miss Elliott? What about in the classroom? Does it equate? ABSOLUTELY. There is nothing like seeing the delight in kids’ faces when they read a book they love. You see the penny drop and they have opened themselves up to a world in which they can lose themselves. Books are very important to me as a teacher. They can be transformative. Some of my favourite memories of teaching have been book centred memories. Whenever I am invited on residentials with classes I am always asked “MISS ARE YOU BRINGING A BOOK?”.
This question stems from one of my first residentials with a Year 5 class. I took a copy of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and was reading to whoever wanted to listen to a story before bed, whilst they were drinking their hot chocolate after a long day of archery, rock climbing and rowing (or whatever the activities had been that day). As far as I was aware I was reading to just one or 2 children, but when I looked up I saw that not only were the one or two I expected to be listening but each and every single member of the class, all 30 of them, were listening. They were enthralled. They had heard this story before, I imagine, but yet reading to them before bed had them hypnotised. After about 15 minutes of reading, a few of them started to drop off… so we put them all to bed. The next day, it came to bed time and again they went through the same process… showers, back into the communal room for some hot chocolate and one of the boys asked “Miss, have you got your book? We loved listening to a story last night”. I happily obliged.
I’ve been on a few residentials since then with Year 4 classes – Year 6 classes and each and every time I take a book. Children request it, staff ask me if I don’t mind. I absolutely do not. I love reading. I will read out loud. I will read to 1 child, I’ll read to 30. Whoever wants to listen I will read to.
There is always a place in the classroom for books.
This is something I vehemently believe in. Plan your lessons around a book. There are some incredible picture books out there. There’s some exceptional MG (Middle Grade) and YA (Young Adult) books out there that can be used in the classroom. Read excerpts. Read new stories. Read classics. Read a book at home time. Read to them before lunch. Read to them after lunch. Get them to read in groups. Ask them to read to the class. Get some silent reading going on. Have discussions about books they know well. Have talking points about books they don’t know.
Children are never too old for a story.
Be it a story they’ve written themselves. Be it a story they’re helping to write. Be it a story they don’t even know they’re part of. Be it a story you’ve heard 100 times before. Be it a story you don’t know. Be it a story they’ve picked up from a shelf. Be it a story you helped them choose. Be it a story that is being read to them. You can’t outgrow a story. I’m 27 and I still love a story.
Books aren’t something to be feared, or repelled from. They’re to be embraced. You never know what it will bring out in your children. I don’t want to go into the statistics behind why reading is good (I’ve got all that to come whilst writing my dissertation) but I truly believe that reading does incredible things for our brains, our hearts and our outlook. I also believe that every child can be reached with books. We just need to help them find the right book. Just like everything in teaching, it’s not easy but it is SO SO worth it.