Saturday, January 14, 2017

Yes, I Love To Read

The last blog post I published, Let's Not Kill The Love Of Reading, seemed to really resonate with other parents and educators based on the responses and comments that were shared. While the post was inspired by my son Paul, he didn't actually read the post until the other day. After reading it, he thanked me writing it and then asked if he could write a guest post for me so he could share things from his perspective. Needless to say, I loved the idea and am honored to feature my awesome son as a guest writer on my blog. After much discussion, a drafting of some notes and a shared Google Doc to review ideas, here is Paul's take on reading and his plea to allow him to keep his love of reading... 

My Reading Journey
As a seventh grader in middle school, I spend a lot of time reading. I read in all my classes - from math class to newspaper club, I am always reading something. Fortunately for me, I am a good reader and have always loved to read. From what my parents tell me, I was reading before I was even 2 years old and although I may not remember those first reading experiences, I do know that I have always loved to read. Whether it was the hysterical My Weird School books by Dan Gutman that spoke to my sense of humor or the powerful All American Boys, which helped me develop a better understanding of race and social justice in our country, I have always loved sitting on the couch and getting lost in a great book. Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was going to our local Barnes & Noble because I knew I'd get to go home with a few new books and experiences. I could literally spend hours in the store checking out books, reading some books and making piles of the books I wanted to take home. Yes, I also loved going to places like Toys R Us but Barnes & Noble was my go-to because no matter what I was into (Star Wars, superheroes, video games, etc.) there was always a book I could find that I could learn more about the topic. 

Of course, as my dad mentioned in his post, when I started school and had to read for my teachers, my love of reading started to change. I felt like every single time we read something in school, there had to be some sort of writing assignment or activity connected to the reading so we could prove to our teachers that we actually read. Now don't get me wrong, I have had some amazing teachers over the years but as I got older, reading in school became more about the teachers and less about the students. Yes, there are many things I like about reading but there are some things I wish could change about reading in school. 

Things I Like About Reading

Reading has been one of my favorite things to do for many years. There are many positive attributes to reading that I really appreciate, especially as I get older. For example... 

1) As a reader, I can get so captured inside of a book, that I would literally end up finishing it in one sitting. That is the sign of a great book - I literally could not put it down!

2) I love reading because I can choose any book that fits my style of reading and my interests. Whether it is nonfiction interests or realistic fiction that connects to my life, I can always find a great book.

3) I have learned lots of great life lessons from books. One of my favorite books of all time is Wonder and there are so many life lessons in that book but the one that still sticks with me is the importance of being kinder than necessary. 

Things My Teachers Do/Did That I Like

Even though sometimes it feels like a specific class (or maybe just school in general) has been slowly destroying my love of reading, there are some great things my teachers still do, or used to do, that I really enjoy as a reader and learner. For example...

1) Some of our teachers let us choose our own book to read on the side in addition the book we are reading in class. I like this because I get to choose what I want to read and what fits my interests at the time!

2) I used to love when my teachers would confer with individual children and talk to us about what we were reading. I loved this because I got to share with my teacher what I had been reading at the time and why I was enjoying my book. Truth is, one of my favorite things about reading conferences is that I had I a chance to talk with my teacher - 1:1 time with my teachers was always a good thing. 

3) I like the opportunity to showcase the books that I have read with my classmates. Sometimes I have read a really awesome book and I want to share that book love with someone else. I like to do this because it lets me feature what I read or am currently reading with my friends and classmates and book talks are a great way to do this in school!

Things My Teachers Do/Did That I Don't Really Like

The truth is that even though I love to read in my free time, and always have, there are also many so called “activities” that I do in school (or have done in the past) that have been crushing my love of reading since elementary school. I don't blame my teachers because I have had many amazing teachers - I think they either doing what the principal is telling them to do or what they think is best (that's what my dad says). Unfortunately, some of the reading activities we do in school are not awesome. Now, you might notice that there are many things I have written about that my dad also wrote about in his blog post but I am writing about them from my perspective as a student. For example... 

1) Summaries/Written Responses. I don’t feel the need to write down what I have read throughout the book, I'd rather just explain it verbally to someone in class the next day. Sometimes, I know I have to write a summary because my teacher needs to understand what I am thinking but the truth is, I just want to share with my classmates to make the experience more interactive.

2) Book Reports/Five Paragraph Essays. I really don’t enjoy writing these because they are a long and exhausting process and there are usually so many boundaries that I can’t write what I want to write. If I have to write about a book, at least let me share the things that I think are most important without so many boundaries.

3) Gist Taking. For those of you who don’t know, gist taking is when you constantly have to stop in the middle of reading and jot down the main idea of the last couple of pages. I feel that this is unnecessary and excessive because it disrupts my reading and thinking. I just want to read my book without disruptions from other people. 

4) Extended Readings. I really do not like these because it takes a book that can be done in a few days or a week, and stretches it out over 3 to 4 months of reading and all we seem to do is answer text based questions. What reader does that? Readers want to read and think and maybe talk about a book and then move on - not read the same book for months and write about it a thousand times. 

5) Reading Logs. Yes, I know how my dad feels about reading logs but the truth is, I don't love them either. The thing I don't like about these charts is that I feel like my teachers do not trust me enough to read without logging it. I do also recognize that reading logs do need to be used with some kids, but other kids (including me, an avid reader) do not need to use them because I generally read on a daily basis because I love to read!

Yes, I Love To Read

Reading has been one of my favorite things to do for my entire life. I am sure I am not the only kid who loves to read - I am guessing there are a lot of us out there. So, to all the educators out there who are reading this, please try one of my recommendations because I think your students will enjoy the reading experience more. Remember, readers should want to read for themselves, not for someone else!


  1. Great post Paul, you are a person after my own heart. We should read because we love to read! However, as a teacher I know there are things I have to ask or have been asked to do that are downright silly. Sometimes teachers make mistakes, but we are people who like to learn, so hopefully when teachers who do those activities you mentioned (that are negative or hard) read your point of view, maybe they will learn something and think a little harder about reading activities that could be more fun and more meaningful and that will add to your reading experience instead of taking away from it! There are so many wonderful books in this world to take 3 months on one seems unfair to all the books waiting on the shelves! What I can tell you is not to give up your love of reading, even in the face of reading logs and 5 paragraph essays. It is the skill that will get you through life in so many ways. It is the cure for boredom, it is the companion on a long flight or on a sun-baked beach, it is the place you learn about love, loss and life!

  2. Great post, Paul. My daughter is a huge fan of Wonder as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Well done.

  3. Thank you so much for your incredibly written and honest post about your reading Paul. Every educator needs to read your words to see reading through the eyes of students and the impact OUR choices can have on YOU. I will make sure as many people read this as possible because your words are so profound. Thank you for being such an inspiration to all of us Paul!

  4. WOWZAS! Paul, the honest and respectful way you go about advocating for your reading life is exemplary! I am probably a little biased because I agree with the points you make, but as a teacher myself, I love it when my students advocate for what THEY want and need to grow as learners. As my friend Mary said above, EVERY teacher needs to be able to see reading (and really all learning) through the eyes of their students. I am wondering if you shared your thoughts with your teachers and if so, how were they received? Well done!!

  5. Thanks for the share, Paul, for sharing. I think you are not alone. My daughter opted to risk an "F" in reading rather than "give her reading to school", and I stood beside her on this. Her teacher did not fail her. Everyone knew she could read. It was her happy place. It was my job as her mom to protect that. As a teacher, I keep this in mind as well. I see change on the horizon. Your voice will help.

  6. Great post, Paul, because you provided a list of both the things you like and the things you don't like that teachers require of readers. Lists like that often make our thinking so much more evident to our readers and allow teachers to even think in terms of "more of this . . ." and "less of this . . ." actions. After reading the lists of books that the President has read the last few years, I couldn't resist linking your blog post in with the President Obama's lists of books: two great Expert Readers to pay attention to in my post about "Evidence of a Reader".

    Don't let anyone else's "requirements ever STOP you from reading! Reading is necessary as one aspect of a literate adult! <3

  7. Paul, meeting you last week was an absolute pleasure, and thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful piece. So often, we try to guess what students like/dislike, and all we have to do is ask them!...By the next time I see you, I expect you to have started your own blog! Peace out, my friend...

  8. Great to read your perspective on this Paul! I am also glad you like reading!

  9. Paul,
    Great job of explaining your thoughts on reading and how as teachers we sometimes squelch that love of reading for students. Keep reading and sharing your thoughts because this is how we as parents and teachers become better.