Students’ reading practices can change in middle school. For many, students keep reading as they always have. Many of them though, back off a bit. Even the passionate readers.
It’s all a function of topic, reading level, hormones, lack of sitting still long enough, etc.
My mantra is that parents should keep modeling a reading lifestyle, reading to each other, talking about books, and avoiding too much pressure or any, about reading. They will come out of this. That’s what I promise. Every time I promise this I worry a bit about the few who may not. But those are other conversations and interventions.
More than the slow down for many in reading, parents worry about how often their student re-reads books, especially “lower level” books.
Here is where I get enervated and absolutely confident. Re-reading is what writers do.
I’m going to repeat this. Re-reading is what writers do. I know this as a writer, but also from patterns over time as a teacher. I will be frank, though, about where my absolute confidence comes from. Stephen King writes about this in his book on Writing, “On Writing”. One of his biggest premises is how writers grow through in-depth study of worlds crafted by others. When students want to keep living in these most-often fictional worlds, they are creating a sense of how they want the world to be in the worlds that they live in within their imaginations.
I’m a writer, and I re-read far more than I pick up new books. To push myself, I read new books and poems, but I mostly revert to the worlds that make sense to me in their style, flourish, feeling.
I’m currently listening to James Herriots’ All Creatures Great and Small Books on Audible. I have a 20+ minute drive to and from work, and I love listening to books as I drive. So, I’m listening to these books (I’m on the third in the series), and I own the entire set in paperback (maybe my DH will buy me a nice hardback set one of these days). I’ve read them all no fewer than five times each. The first one, I have read over fifteen times. I have also binge-watched the BBC series a few times. I love this world. It’s about history, England, animals, and amazing characters.
But just today, I realized, as I finished the second book, as James Herriot is headed off to serve in the Royal Air Force during WW1, ten minutes from school, tears running down my cheeks, why I love these books so much. I thought it was the stories of animals, history, charming real-life characters, and the portrait of the rugged Yorkshire landscape. But today, at the end of the book, as he is describing his gratitude for living as he does, I realized that what I love about his books is his lens on gratitude. He’s a storyteller, brilliant, amusing, hilarious, heart-warming and heart-wrenching. But all of his stories have the theme of his gratitude. Even when he is trudging through a blizzard after no sleep, and no idea where he is, he appreciates life. Even after yet another crusty farmer disrespects his work and aggravates the situation, he has gratitude. Even when the lonely old widower has to have his long-time companion, his dog, put down, he has gratitude for being a part of this.
He appreciates life. All of life. His self-deprecation, eye for raw beauty, and his wry wit are all a part of the appreciation he has for everything.
When I started blogging when Danny was hospitalized in 2011, I created a theme of gratitude.
I did not know it then, but I had learned that in many ways, through my family, through friends, through Danny. And I learned it as my soul learns, through stories. Through narratives that are more real than life.
It is why I love those books by James Herriot.
It is why I am blogging about teaching. I have deep gratitude for every moment I learn from others, from my students who gift me with their hearts, minds, and souls.
I wish I could express myself as James Herriot does, but I’m grateful that I can keep working at honing that craft.
I have gratitude for re-learning through rereading. I appreciate how much I understand because I have lived in so many lives outside my own through the gift of others. It’s why I know students who love to read will always love to read if things stay positive, and if they have choice about what they read, and how often they re-read, even if those stories, those ideas are maybe “lower”. A story is a story, and reading is reading. We’ll all keep reading if we enjoy it.
Goal: Keep writing and sharing and learning. Keep these lessons in my heart. Keep learning and growing with my students.
Gratitude: Oh, everything. The deer eating our garden tonight, munching and looking at us with complete innocence. Our cats who silly up our lives. My family and Danny’s family. Our friends and colleagues. This night sky that is slow to darken tonight. The fresh dill I bought at the farm stand tonight.