Thoughts on Summer Reading Part 20: It’s Good to Feel Needed

Mow the lawn, take out the trash, write lesson plans, go to faculty meetings, do the dishes…  The list goes on and on.  Sometimes I feel like a machine going through the motions.  Doing the same things over and over.  Sure, I try to capture the experiences and live in the moment, but it tends to be the same experiences and moments over and over again.

However, once in a while something strange happens to break up the routine.  While it’s not always a good distraction from the monotony, it is something different.

Last night, my wife and I were fast sleep in our bedroom, cozily tucked into our bed linens.  The hum of the fan lulled us to sleep.  There I was, in slumberville USA, population 2.  I was about to enter REM sleep.  Oh, it was perfect.  And that’s when my routine was disturbed.

So, my son, was using one of his two weekly sleep-out-in-the-living-room freebies as it is summer vacation.  While I question how much sleep he gets, he loves it because he gets to keep his phone with him overnight.  During all other nights, we collect it at bedtime.  So, he was super excited.  Oh, he is also deathly afraid of all types of insects and bugs.

So, there I was, asleep in my bed with visions of mountains dancing in my head.  Suddenly, as though some sort of alarm was going off, my delightful, 14-year-old son burst into the bedroom, turned on the lights, and started shouting, “Daddy, there is a big bug in the living room.  I need you to kill it, now!”

I awoke with a jolt, and slowly roused.  I put on my glasses, grabbed a paper towel from the kitchen, and went on a bug-killing spree.  Normally, I’m humane about living organisms, but it was too late at night for me to think humanely.  My son pointed out the giant insect saying, “It’s so big.  It looks like a bug from the time of the dinosaurs.”  While it was a huge bug, I doubt it was a layover from the Jurassic Period.  So, I killed it and went back to bed.  My son thanked me for slaying the great creature and apologized for waking me up to do so.  How sweet, I thought.  As I lay my head back onto my fluffy pillow, I felt good.  It feels great to be needed.  Even though my son is 14 years old and able to make his own food, get to places on time, do his homework, and operate an iPhone, he still needs his dad to protect him from killer insects from the Dinosaur age.

This situation reminded me of my current summer reading book.  Readicide by Kelly Gallagher is full of awesome ideas to use in the classroom.  It’s also chock-full of fodder to use when advocating the effective teaching of reading.  

One big idea I totally agree with, but never really thought about prior to reading this great resource is the power of reading.  Reading is not just a fundamental skill all people need to have in order to be effective members of society.  It is also the key to higher test scores.  Data proves that students who read for pleasure regularly, scored better on standardized, high-stakes tests than those students who don’t read for pleasure.  That old adage about reading, “The more you read, the more you know,” really is true.  Reading makes you smarter.  But it’s got to be on the students’ terms.  Choice and freedom need to be involved.  Students need to read texts they choose, from various genres.  That makes total sense to me.  The workshop model of reading instruction I employ in my classroom allows for this to happen.  Yah for my students!

The big take-away for me at this point in the book is how the author injects different types of reading into his curriculum.  While I cover current events with my students weekly, I do wonder how effective my methods are.  Are my students learning enough?  Are they doing the thinking?  Are the reading the “right” articles?  Gallagher uses the Article of the Week method to cover current events and non-fiction reading.  He provides the students with a print out of a news article.  They need to read and dissect it over the course of the week.  They also discuss it in class.  He also will assign some sort of connected writing activity to go along with the reading.  The students might need to re-write the headline or summarize the article briefly in a few sentences.  The prompts vary week-to-week.  What a simple, yet fun way to bring current events and expository reading segments to the students.  I love it.

Even though, it’s just a book, I need Readicide to offer me some new ideas on how to more effectively deliver Reader’s Workshop to my students.  Thank you Mr. Gallagher for writing such a useful tool.  You are like my bug slayer.  However, I promise not to wake you up in the middle of the night to write a new book or give me a new idea.  That’s what parents are for.


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