By TEA President Tanya Coats
Happy New Year!
One of my all-time favorite shows – I’ll accept the risk of dating myself here – was “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” where Mr. Fred Rogers said, “the more we read to know, the more we learn to grow.”
Getting our students to read outside of assignments and classroom work is an emphasis for many teachers. To accomplish this, we work to instill a love of reading in our students, often by demonstrating our own love of reading.
We show students that they may read more than they realize — we all read continuously throughout the day — and that by accepting reading as part of everyday life, they will grow more at ease with reading in the classroom and as part of their homework. From traffic signs to text messages, social media posts to novels, reading is a fundamental part of our lives. As we emphasize the importance and ease of reading beyond curriculum and classroom assignments, we lead students on the path from recognizing the value of reading to growing to love reading.
As educators, we know that state tests cannot measure a love of reading, nor do they consistently measure the reading skills of our students. Our best service to our students — instilling a love of reading — may never be reflected in the state test data that drives so many education policy decisions. It would be wonderful if it were indeed measured by a test, but our experience indicates that it isn’t.
When I was in the classroom I loved to read with my students. To encourage reading, I invited students to form groups that would comprise a reading theater. Inside our reading thereafter, they were able to choose what we read and where we read as a class. Quote often, students chose the library area in my classroom where they were allowed to stop working on other projects and read books aloud, such as Tuck Everlasting, Judy Blume Series, The Wizard of Oz, Sarah Plain & Tall, Sounder, How to Eat Fried Worms, Holes, and other cherished titles.
From the first day of school and throughout the school year, I encouraged my students to discuss their favorite books and what they were reading at the time. We had active discussions on ways to encourage fellow students to read.
We know our students often face hurdles and distractions along their path to knowledge, but once they have the love of reading, it can never be taken away, and the world will remain forever open to them.
Mr. Rogers also said: “There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.”
Our students need to see us reading and loving it. Our community needs to honor and exalt a love of reading. Our policymakers must value a love of reading instead of focusing only on its mechanics or related skills.
We can create a generation that loves to read. There is no better outcome. And it will take all of us.