I pulled up next to Josue and I asked him if we could look at the books he had loaded into his book bag for reading this week in reading workshop. He told me that he had just picked all of these books on Monday, so this was his third day reading from this collection. We spread the books on the table and there were seven of them. I said which ones of these have you read so far and he touched just one book. I then asked, “How far are you into this book?” He was on page 7. That meant that he had had 60 minutes or more of in school reading time and he had only read 7 pages.
I was attempting to model how I was setting myself up to be a consultant to these second grade readers. I had no interest in “holding them accountable”. I was more interested in teaching these young readers how to build and understand their reading identities. I helped Josue set a new goal for the next few minutes and when I returned, he had met it. I asked, “What changed? What did you do differently to get more reading done?” He paused for a second and then answered, “I read.” That made me laugh because I knew he had been mostly talking during reading workshop but he just discovered it for himself. So much better than if I lectured him about that. Science teaches us that the epiphany is the best place for learning. The secret is that the person who is doing the learning needs to have the epiphany.
When I asked Nolan about his book bag he had no answer until be started to sort his books. I said, “You have this whole pile of animal books. You must love animals.” Nolan looked at me and said, “No. I do not like animals.” So funny. Kid after kid answered this way when we talked about what was in their book baggy. It was clear that they had just been choosing books by level and number. As soon as we spread the books out and we had kids really look, read the title and take a book walk and maybe even read a little bit, they were choosing books in a much different way. They were thinking about what they wanted to read and why. After working with two other kids and having them really work to pick their books, they both sat hugging their pile and they wanted to know if they could read at home too.
This kind of work can sometimes feel like it is frivolous, not rigorous but if we make people who want to read and if they have books that are tempting to them, they will practice more and that will grow them. Especially if the books are also ones that they can read with high levels of understanding.
Before I left his room, Nolan came running up and said, “Wait. Wait. I was wrong. I like frogs. I like frogs.” I smiled and said, “Oh. Just one animal you like.”
He said, “Are you coming back?”