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Reading is NOT optional

I just read a short blog post by Bill Feterriter entitled “A message from Myers: Reading is not optional.” Funny how this blog thing works … he said, he read, he wrote, I write, you read. So here it is, Myer‘s said.

“We all know we should eat right and we should exercise, but reading is treated as if it’s this wonderful adjunct…We’re still thinking in terms of enticing kids to read with a sports book or a book about war.

We’re suggesting that they’re missing something if they don’t read but, actually, we’re condemning kids to a lesser life.

If you had a sick patient, you would not try to entice them to take their medicine. You would tell them, ‘Take this or you’re going to die.’ We need to tell kids flat out: reading is not optional.”

Myers is so right! And I agree with Feterriter, that Myers passion is making sure that EVERY kid — especially those living in the kinds of tough circumstances that he (Myers) grew up in — embraces reading.

That is my passion, too and I believe THIS is the failing of our school systems. We focus more and more on standardized testing … and collecting data … until there is LITERALLY no time left in the day, in the week, or  in the two week block – for teaching.

TRUE STORY: That’s what happened recently in our school district. Recently we were thrown (for a second time this school year) into TWO WEEKS OF TESTING. ALL TEACHING GOT SET ASIDE during these periods. We were mandated to administer the ELPA (State test for English Language Learners), The MAP (district test), The Middle of the Year DIBLES (district test which identifies who needs weekly or biweekly progress monitoring testing), The Middle of the Year Accelerated Reading and Math Test, and a paper and pencil district pre-test for Science and Social Studies! Our beautiful library (that I write about in another post called Building a Library with Joan) became the testing center for all the online assessments. Yes, you counted that right! There were eight different assessments being administered!

TRUE STORY: Just after this testing period, I arrived at the door of a first grade room, to pick up a student on my resource program caseload and another student who had been identified as needing intensive intervention.  I was taking them to do some multi-sensory small group reading instruction. I called the students names and they said, “Oh are you here to test us?” How sad is that … I don’t think anyone remembers that I am a teacher.

Something has got to change! The children are counting on us! Our priorities must shift … so I second the words of Feterriter,

Listen to those words, y’all.  Let them roll around in your mind for a few minutes.  Stew in them.  We ARE condemning kids to a lesser life when we turn the urgency of reading into an option. “

And to that I add my own post script … We are condemning our urban learners with diverse learning, language and behavioral needs to a lesser life when we use all their precious teaching time TESTING for skills and concepts that we don’t have the time (and sometimes the resources) to teach them. Research shows that most children don’t learn by osmosis! 

We must take back the teaching profession … and center it around teaching and learning to read, and reading to learn, and learning to read for pleasure! Reading is NOT an option!