Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.
Getting a report from my son’s middle school about a lost or damaged book is not surprising. He is a voracious reader. His backpack is continuously filled with books; when he walks to school, he looks kind of like a Sherpa carrying a heavy load up a Himalayan mountain. So my wife and I have learned to accept a few missteps as part of his love for reading.
But this was different. The note from the library assistant read: “A book Finn checked out was recently ruined by a banana in his backpack. Please send a check for $13 to cover the cost of the replacement. Thank you.”
When he got home, I quizzed him for more information. “Well, Dad,” he explained, “you tell me to bring a snack to school, and I am trying to eat healthy, but I forgot about it in my backpack, so it got a little rotten and that book was right next to it.” I responded by asking him if maybe he would have remembered he had packed a banana if he hadn’t had so many books in his backpack. “What, you don’t want me to be a reader?” he exclaimed, and then stomped up to his room.
It’s usually at this point that my wife steps in and reminds me that the current situation is not the end of the world. I listened, but was still upset that I had to write out a $13 check. “He’s going to have to work it off,” I announced. No one responded, probably knowing that I would relax a bit about the issue later on.
We have since worked with our son to help him be a bit more organized with his books, such as deciding on a reasonable limit to the number of titles in his backpack. “But it’s so hard to choose!” he howled. I couldn’t argue with him. My own backpack is full of educational titles and notebooks. “Hmm, I wonder where he gets it from…” my wife observed sarcastically. We also bought him an e-reader to house some books digitally and lighten his load, but he forgets to charge it. “I prefer print anyway,” he concluded, noting his penchant for graphic novels that don’t always translate well to a screen.
When I am able to step back and get some perspective, I can see how we as adults can sometimes arrive too quickly at conclusions and make assumptions about our kids. We see challenges and immediately jump to ways of fixing it for students. Or, we see only a problem and miss the silver lining of the issue.
But not all problems are meant to be solved. Sometimes the problem is also the solution. What would a school be like if the biggest issue to be dealt with was kids damaging and losing library books? This would likely be a symptom of a culture of readers distracted by excellent literature instead of Instagram. What other “good problems” might we have to deal with?
The next day I wrote the check and sent it with my son to school. “Hey, maybe when you get home, we could take a look at what you are reading lately,” I said. “I’m curious what sixth graders are finding interesting nowadays.” Of course, I had an ulterior motive in helping him clean out his backpack. But why start by viewing this challenge as a problem to be solved, instead of a lifelong habit to be examined, refined, and continuously celebrated?This week we consider reading at home from many angles. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Matt Renwick is an elementary principal in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Matt blogs at Reading by Example, tweets @ReadByExample, and writes for ASCD.
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Pernille Ripp wonders what parents wish we would ask their children. Her discoveries are great food for thought as teachers prepare to launch a new school year.
We’re launching two courses soon to help you get organized for the new school year. Gradual Release of the Classroom Library with Bitsy Parks will help classroom teachers design minilessons and strategies for introducing students to the classroom library over time. Getting Organized for Literacy Coaching with Ruth Ayres will help new and veteran coaches design thoughtful coaching programs. If you’re a Choice Literacy member, you’ll receive 20-40% discounts off the course fees.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Sending books home with young readers is essential. Cathy Mere gives lots of practical tips for designing a take-home books program and communicating with families about what young readers need.
Adolescent learners can face daunting reading loads in high school that they need to tackle at home. Jen Schwanke has tips for how teachers and parents can work together to help teens develop strategies for dealing with a lot of complex reading quickly.
Max Brand finds that the best way to help young Heather’s mom understand her needs is to sit side by side as she reads. Having parents observe tutoring sessions gives them a much deeper sense of how they can assist with reading at home.
In an encore video, Katie Baydo-Reed confers with an eighth-grade student, giving advice about which books are appropriate for home reading, and moving between fiction and nonfiction texts.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Shari Frost explains why even if you’re reading hundreds of children’s and YA books a year, it’s still essential to find room in your reading life for “grown-up” books.
Looking for mentor texts to help teachers write? Cathy Mere suggests you begin with a theme of home.
PD2Go: This workshop is designed to help teachers develop strategies for communicating about literacy goals with families. Gigi McAllister gives a brief explanation of how her thinking on goal setting has changed, as well as the ways in which she uses student goals to connect with parents. Max Brand shares strategies for helping parents talk with students.
Feeling challenged by a colleague, student, or parent? Jennifer Gonzalez recommends you try validation.
At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.
That’s all for this week!