If you are an educator with some time away from school this summer, hopefully you are using a lot of it to recharge. There are many ways you might choose to do this: gardening, lounging, beach-going, cleaning, socializing and, perhaps reading and writing.
Getting caught up on that stack of novels at your bedside or finally tucking into that personal journal that's been sitting empty can be such pleasures when you finally have the time. Happily, as you nurture yourself as a reader or writer this summer, you can also fuel your teaching.
These days, it’s par for the course that nonfiction reading gets equal (and sometimes greater) emphasis than fiction in most reading classrooms. What’s more, many teachers recognize the need to teach nonfiction reading skills, rather than simply assign nonfiction reading, even as late as middle school and high school. Students cannot be successful in school without being able to read nonfiction well, and they cannot read nonfiction well without learning strategies to do it.
The author of Improving Schools from Within, Roland Barth, claims that one can measure the health of a school by the number of elephants in the room. By this he means that when there are whispered conversations in parking lots and behind closed classroom doors, and when there is a feeling of “us-against-them,” and when one new initiative comes down the pike after another before the last ones were understood or embraced, a school’s health suffers. But when there is openness and frank conversation about what is truly best for the children of a school, the school’s health can grow.
Check out the Twitter feed of the @TCRWP, and you’ll see scores of Tweets brimming with enthusiasm, learning, and energy from participants of The Reading and Writing Project’s annual June Reading Institute, going on this week. These Tweets include snippets of wisdom from workshop leaders, featured speakers, fellow participants, and of course, from Lucy Calkins herself. (Some of the most tweeted lines from Lucy’s Monday keynote include: “Reading is no longer reading if you try to control my mind while I do it” and, "We continue to inadvertently chase students away from reading. Don't make reading so elite and pure that humanity is forgotten.”)
This week, institute season kicks off at The Reading and Writing Project, as thousands of educators gather at Teachers College in New York City to reflect upon, reinvigorate, and refine their teaching of writing. The workshops, lectures, keynotes, and often informal study groups they will attend will help them to hone their teaching practices so that they begin the next school year in the strongest place yet.
These days, books have a lot of competition for kids’ attention. Video games, cell phones, tablets, and social media sites all provide tantalizing sources of entertainment for kids of all ages during their off hours. As we move into the summer months, many kids will have a lot of hours to fill. As teachers, we have a lot of power to make sure that at least some of kids’ time this summer is taken up with reading.
Reading over the summer is particularly crucial for children from lower income families, as study after study has shown. Many of these children already suffer from vast achievement gaps that they can’t afford to widen. Some research estimates that children from middle-income homes read three lines of print for everyone one line read by children from lower income homes. Children from lower income homes simply cannot afford to not read in the summer if they are to catch up.