Friday, April 13, 2007

Reading, Silent Sustained

I used to really like reading. I read newspapers, I read books. I used to get in trouble for hiding my book under the dining room table and reading between bites. Unfortunately, one of the many things I kissed goodbye when I became a teacher was the ability to read things not connected to curriculum or children. Luckily, what I've recently found is that reading for pleasure very much follows Mr. Newton's theory of motion.

Once you start reading regularly, you'll find the time somewhere in your day to finish the book and move on to another.

In an effort to prep our students for the reading TAKS (t-minus five days) we've been doing three days a week of silent sustained reading for about a month and a half now. This is something I should have been much more diligent about, but like all things from my first year, live and learn. On the advice of one of our reading gu-rus I began reading with my kids every time they did SSR. This has lead to my discovery of the reader in motion theory.

I've managed to pack back three rather sizable books since spring break. I just can't put them down. I most recently made it all the way to a book called Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, a great book where a woman chronicles her whole life in encyclopedia form. I have to fight the urge to laugh when I read it in class. I can't put it down and thanks to SSR I don't have to.

When you take into account that SSR is 20 minutes a day and I have three classes, that means I'm reading — at minimum — sixty minutes every other day. This is if  my kids don't beg for more time, or I don't whip out my book while waiting for a meeting to start or sleep to take me over at the end of the day. More than once this week I've woken up in the morning with my book in my lap and my glasses still on. I guess sometimes sleep gets to me before I finish the chapter.

I love it. This is why I loved school. This is why I majored in Journalism and minored in English. I love reading. I love words, I love the world that a good story can transport you to. I love what I'm seeing out of my kids right now.

Deundre has been a constant challenge since the start of the year. He was most definitely my most difficult reader in that I literally had to sit beside him and tap on his desk every two minutes to get him to simply pretend to read and not disturb his neighbor. Then I found the magic switch. Walter Dean Myers. Deundre loves everything this man writes. He loves the stories, loves the black characters, loves that I bring him books I've nabbed from half price books every weekend. Last week when I showed up with four new Walter Dean Meyers books he tried to convince me not to give them out to other kids until he was able to read them. He wasn't done with them he said and it wasn't fair to give away books he loved. The child used the word love.

Another morning in the same week I came back from the copy room to see Laura lingering outside my door. A while ago I shnazed up my classroom door with quotes about reading and writing. My favorite one talks about books making us all immigrants by taking us far away from the world we know. Given my kids background, I found this thought to be very fitting when I choose it. Apparently so did laura. "Miss," she asked. "this quote, it means that you get to escape right? It means that even though I'm from Mexico and I live in Houston when I"m reading I can be in the same place as my character. I can go there even if I really can't." Yes Laura, that's exactly what it means was what I meant to say, but I really got out was a nod and a smile as I opened the door and let her curl up on my couch with her newest bookshelf discovery.

My last story of the reading success was catching Angela not paying attention in class yesterday. I thought she had skillfully tucked a note under her desk and was sneaking glances at it when she thought I wasn't looking. Oh yes Angela, I see you and oh yes, I'm going to take your note. When I reached down to snatch the note up I came up with a copy of The Princess Diaries instead. I only have one set of the series and Angela had been waiting for two weeks for it to come available. I guess I"m not the only one who tries to read under the table when the story is too good to stop reading.

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