Monday, May 25, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: All the Ways Books Are Important to Readers

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  

During the last week of school, I met with students in small groups.  As we finished the year, I wanted to try to do some of the things I usually did to celebrate growth, reflect and end the year. In these small group meets, I asked each student to talk about a book that was important-- a book that was important for some reason.  I chose my words carefully, as I didn't merely want a favorite book or a book they liked. So, I asked, "Tell me about a book that has been important to you in 5th grade for some reason." And then I gave them time to think about it.

The answers gave me a lot of insight into our year as readers and it also told me a bit about the ways my students approached books as readers. There was no wrong answer, but there were so many right answers. As I look at this list, I am happy with all of the ways books were important to my 5th graders. 

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman 
"It was the first book that made me cry."  

"It was the longest book I ever read. I never thought I could read that book by myself."

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
"It was the first book I read that was about basketball, but it was about more than basketball. It was a sports book that was really not about the sport but about friends. I realized sports books can be about more than the game."

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
"I loved how the plot developed and it helped me think about how I develop plots as a writer. Reading it made a huge difference in my writing."

"I skipped a lot of parts that seemed boring. But then I got confused and had to go back. I realized that parts I didn't think were important in a book, might be important later."

Refugee by Alan Gratz
"This book was so confusing at the beginning.  When a book is confusing at the beginning I usually quit or ask for help, but I kept reading and rereading and it started to make sense. I learned that I could stick with books and get less confused as I read. And it is okay to be confused at the beginning of a book."

More to the Story by Hena Khan
"I loved this book and I think it was one of a lot of books that taught me empathy. Then the coronavirus happened. Between books and the quarantine and coronavirus, I became a more empathetic person."

Love, Sugar, Magic by Anna Merianao
"This book was one I annotated (a lot!) on my own and the notes helped me really think about the book in ways I don't usually when I am reading by myself."

"This was a topic I was interested in that I didn't know I was interested in."

"This book taught me that words like 'monster' that come up in a story can have multiple meanings. I realized that books and words could have more than one meaning at the same time."

The Rain Dragon Rescue by Suzanne Selfors
"I didn't know I could read a book on my own. I usually read longer books with audiobooks. But this one I read on my own and I was surprised and happy I could do it. Then I started to read lots of books."

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz
"I have only read fantasy for years. I thought I only liked fantasy. But this book helped me see I could like other kinds of books and I started to like historical fiction."

In my life, books have been important for so many reasons. I plan to spend some time reflecting on the many reasons books have been important in my life as a reader and as a human and to think about ways to bring more of these conversations into my work with children.  Listening in to all of the ways my students found books to be important gave me some new ways to think about the impact of books on readers.

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