There’s an abundance of reading interest inventories, but they all share the same goal: to help students learn and ponder more about themselves as readers. A definite must for this provocation! Explore a few below:
As I was updating Goodreads with an old picture book list I’d made, I came across notes I had written about a couple fabulous author/illustrator videos that I wanted to remember to share with my students. And re-watching those just kind of…snowballed into this post.
I always love a good compilation; especially one that gives kids a glimpse into the processes & lives of their favorite authors & illustrators as people. I hope you enjoy these as much as my very small students and I did!
#1: Oliver Jeffers Picture Book Maker: As playful as all his books. We particularly enjoyed the sandwich hunt.
#2: Little Carmen Deedy Didn’t Like to Read: Loved her story on how she first found the right book. “And I’ve said for a long time that if the right book and the right child find each other, bam…fireworks!”
#3: Author & Illustrator Peter Brown on his Process: Great insight into the decision-making process. Especially his note, “Should I use the word ‘naked?'”
#4: What is Music? from ChristianRobinson: Ok, so this one isn’t directly about Christian Robinson, but it still provides insight on him as an illustrator. And it absolutely delighted both my kids and me (for more direct information about him, see this Meet the Illustrator article).
#5: La La La by Kate DiCamillo & illustrated by Jaime Kim. Great perspective to hear about book collaboration.
#6: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett: So I guess this isn’t directly about Jon & Mac’s lives either, but having met them at a library Author Link, I’d say there’s probably more accuracy than one might guess…
#7: An Interview with Beverly Clearly: So cool to hear about how she got started writing realistic fiction!
#8: bethany bARTon monster painting. No words. Just some great tunes & Bethany enjoying her art.
#9: The Truth About the Writing Process by Julie Falatko. As hilarious as her books and her tweets.
#10: Meet Tomie dePaola. I loved hearing about how folktales shaped him as an author.
#11: Snappsy Did Not Ask to Be in This Video About How to Draw Him from Tim Miller. Just a funny and highly-precise how-to (ie “medium-sized hot dog for the snout”)
#12: 2017 from Carter Higgins. So cool to watch her double-debut year unfold as she used the app, One Second Everyday.
#13: Tour Philip & Erin Stead’s Michigan Studio. Fun to see this pair in their home element.
#14: The Teacher Who Changed Everything with Patricia Polacco. If you’ve read “Thank You Mr. Falkner,” you know this story, but it’s incredible to watch Patricia share it herself!
#15: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Thought Bubble: Kindness. It absolutely blew my mind to hear Amy’s conclusions on a life worth remembering years before hers was tragically claimed by cancer. Her legacy of kindness truly lives on in her books and videos.
#16: Matt de la Pena Author Video. I enjoyed hearing Matt’s “unlikely” story on how he became an author, and how that background helps him work to appeal to reluctant readers.
#17: Peter Reynolds discusses his books: Did you know he works with his twin brother, and has since they were tiny?
#18: Brendan Wenzel: Great to hear how “The Stinky Cheese Man” influenced him as an author/illustrator!
If there are any authors or illustrators on this list with whom you are not yet familiar, I encourage you to check out their stuff right away!
When I write about how my daughter is succeeding as a reader even though (or because?) I did not force sight word flashcards or memorizing the alphabet on her as a preschooler, my thinking inevitably returns to readers we would term “at-risk” because of their sorely limited book access.
I wonder if my talk of autonomy and following the child’s lead and student choice & voice are another facet of our privilege, overlooking the needs of kids that need to “catch up” with their peers? Is my priority to cultivate the reader over the reading level potentially damaging for these children?
But this question, and all initiatives out there that insist every child must read by a certain level by age fill-in-the-blank (usually implemented in areas with higher number of at-risk kids), leads to a rather slippery slope with regards to development & choice. We must be wary of practices that suggest that honoring developmental readiness is only reserved for children of a certain class.
This wariness should become sharper when we are faced with programs that overshadow books themselves. When programs > books, we run into equity issues every time because only the kids that quickly finish up their program assignment get time to simply read books of their choosing (Matthew Effect, anyone?)
So, how do we…
…work to eliminate the reading ability gap our low-income students face while still honoring developmental readiness and choice?
…seek out accountability that all students are receiving high quality reading instruction while also avoiding silver bullet programs that promise guarantees?
…ensure that in our zeal to help them find words, we do not allow our anxious agendas to swallow up their voices & choices?
Even as we work to identify diverse literary needs and developmental readiness, we can find a more joyful, inviting reading community for all as we focus more on nurturing readers & cultures than on pushing reading levels.
“For too long we have focused on the development of reading for skills, not for the love of reading. Yet, we need both types of experiences in order to fully develop as readers.” ~Pernille Ripp
(so many practical ideas from Pernille on establishing that culture in her post).
For our early readers, we seem to have been especially caught up in the skills side of reading. We need to stop packing in skills so tightly that they crowd out reading itself.
As Donalyn Miller recently summed up,
“We need an intervention on interventions! The best intervention is a good book a child can and wants to read.” @Stephharvey49#readingsummit
Each and every one of our early readers deserve librarians just as much as they deserve high-quality reading specialists. They deserve books in their hands just as much as they deserve guided reading groups. And they deserve teachers who share their authentic love of reading just as much as they deserve teachers who effectively build decoding skills.
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by fear of kids falling behind. But when we start from a place of love of the reading instead of fear, we ultimately lay a literary foundation that is much more lasting and meaningful for all our readers.
Variety is key, and it’s not always super pretty. It’s all about access. Which means it should be ever-evolving, based on our observations of our kids’ shifting needs. And access wins over pretty every time.
This might look like…
…pulling out books from our tightly-packed shelf onto the display area with the library books to remind our kids of gems they’ve forgotten.
…giving them their own shelf to organize favorite books (and to keep them safe from book-shredding little brothers for now).
…letting them go to town arranging their own personal “library.”
What are ways you help encourage book access with your kids at home? How does that shift over time?
A few days ago, I overheard my 8 year-old adding her day plans to our shared daily to-do list (more on that here). Using the speech-to-text feature, amid other typical tasks, I suddenly heard her say, “Read all the books on the bottom shelf.”
Teacher mom that I am, of course I was delighted.
But then I turned to reflect once more on our journey of her literacy:
The constant tension I felt between whether I should let her choose her own books or drill her on-level basal reader or sight-word flashcards to push her to the next reading level.
The nagging worry that I was denying her opportunities by turning down programs with the label, “proven to be successful in improving the reading skills of every student who participates.”
The way I wondered if I was wrong to yield to her book-making efforts over any worksheets that came home.
Yet amid all the angst, here we are to nearly the start of 3rd grade, and not only is she a fantastic reader and writer, but she’s adding items to her to-do list like “read all the books on the bottom shelf.”
It makes me wonder. Had I pushed all those academics and level advancement on her from my place of stress and worry, would she be making such choices for her summer? My suspicion is that had I pushed my agenda on my strong-willed child, she would want little to do with books today–especially on her “time off.”
It seems that those of us raising kids today are given every reason to believe that to trust our kids’ autonomy over their learning is tantamount to negligence. We are constantly bombarded with ads that offer promises of confidence in our children’s future success. We are so stressed by questions on whether we’re doing enough for our kids, that there is little room left for noticing the learning that quietly and naturally unfolds each day.
There is an abundance of learning and growing happening within our kids each day. Recognizing, embracing, and celebrating that from a place of love will always outperform operating from a place of not-enough stress and fear. Not because it will guarantee some future Harvard acceptance or a job on Wall Street, but because it will cultivate a lifetime of joyful learning.
One of my all-time favorite childhood books is Gyo Fujikawa’s “Oh, What A Busy Day!” What I found most magical about it as a child was observing all the ideas those kids pursued — without a single supervising adult.
“Once upon a time, kids were part of the world. They were allowed to go places, do things, meet people. They were active.
For “active” now substitute “activities.” Kids participate in activities created for them, not by them. We take them, show them, teach them, protect them in a way that most of us — given the choice — would have rejected in favor of adventure.”
To me, this comes down to a major break-down of trust and community. Driven by our fears of all that might happen if we don’t do what is described above, we teach our kids that no one — not even our kids themselves — are worthy of trust.
That’s why I adore the following picture books. May they inspire you and your children to cultivate greater trust & recapture the magic of childhoods filled with healthy independence & adventure.
#1: Oh, What A Busy Day! by Gyo Fujikawa
Published in 1976, this picture book was ahead of its time with regards to diversity. It takes children through the possibilities of every facet of childhood, from make-believe, to fighting with friends, to enjoying the different seasons. I literally spent years trying to recall the author or title before I finally stumbled across our original beloved copy at my parents’ house — I immediately bought a reprint. Her own words describing how she felt about her audience sum up her beautiful work:
“In illustrating for children, what I relish most is trying to satisfy the constant question in the back of my mind–will this picture capture a child’s imagination? What can I do to enhance it further? Does it help to tell a story? I am far from being successful (whatever that means), but I am ever so grateful to small readers who find ‘something’ in any book of mine.”
#2: Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins & Emily Hughes
This lovely read came from Colby Sharp’s recommendation. I loved it so much that I bought it for my daughter’s birthday book as it reminded me of her sense of adventure & creativity. Kids are shown the many dreamy ways they can enjoy treehouse goodness — even if they are still waiting on a tree.
#3: Windows by Julia Denos & E.B. Goodale
Go for an evening walk with a young boy as he learns about his neighborhood through his own quiet observations. I love the way this captures how much kids can notice about their communities when given the chance.
#4: Bertolt by Jacques Goldstyn
A book that will speak to the introvert’s soul. A child loves spending time with his tree, Bertolt, more than anything else in the world. His quiet observations and problem-solving will win over the hearts of all that love to get some alone-time.
#5: Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran & Barbara Cooney
My friend Faige Meller first introduced me to Roxaboxen, and it has been a family favorite ever since! The Goodreads reviews are packed with nostalgia, but I think it’s important to note that kids haven’t stopped being capable of creating such a retreat. We as adults need to just get out of their way more often to let them make it happen. “Roxaboxen is always waiting. Roxaboxen is always there.”
#6: Raft by Jim LaMarche
A story filled with appreciation and self-discovery. Kids will love following Nicky through the woods as he comes to love a summer of solitude at his grandmother’s house.
What about you? What are your favorite reads that promote the independent and magical childhoods we are all nostalgic for (and that we can again support)!
When classroom literacy instruction starts to become completely overtaken by that literacy programs, do actual books start to get in the way? After all, reading a book takes more time. Selecting passages from actual books to share with students takes time. Talking about our favorite books (and building the culture that makes us want to) takes time.
And time is what we lack most as teachers!
Plus, when that program has mapped out tasks and “personalized” progress for every day of the school year, it seems our literary expertise starts to take a back seat to that very expensive program.
So what starts happening when programs > books?
Books seem like luxurious “extras” (you can get to your book when you finish the worksheet or level).
Books seem less efficient than the programs (we all know books have value, but if they’re not carefully scaffolding the reading development with every word, are they as valuable during class time?)
Read aloud time starts to disappear (after all, the programs seem to encompass all the literary needs, not to mention time).
Programs are deemed more adept at identifying skills (at least, the skills most easily recognizable/test-able).
Kids talk less about the books they’re reading and more about the levels they’re on (it makes sense since all that time on programs suggests we’re more interested in getting them to the next level than we are about their reading interests).
No matter how appealing and adept a program might seem, we must be careful to seek balance and to protect our students’ love of books. As authors by Antero Garcia and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen write, “To see themselves as readers, students must also have opportunities to make decisions about what they will read.” p. 98, Pose, Wobbble, Flow. Pernille Ripp also writes eloquently on programs like Accelerated Reader & selecting literacy programs. Also this:
If you have an expensive computer program to teach reading, but you have no classroom libraries, school libraries or a certified school librarian, something is seriously wrong with the decision making process