I’ve been thinking a lot about required reading these days. Perhaps, because I have been chasing my girls around the house with these paper fish, saying “When are you doing to do you fish!?”
The fish came home on the last day of school with a letter from our principal that read in part;
“Each spring I revisit the idea of requiring reading for students and I remain committed to the idea that fostering a love of pleasure reading is crucial. Summertime is a chance for kids to be a bit more unfettered and, while I hope that time includes reading; it will not be a mandate from Somerville.
However, I am encouraging every child to read each and every day this summer. I plan to do the same and visit the library each week with my children. Attached to this letter are 2 fish templates. I ask that each child returns to school with one or both of his/her fist template filled in with the name and title of a book they enjoyed this summer. We will celebrate our reading success on the main board in the front of the school. My goal is to have one fish for every Somerville student in Grades 1-5.”
Now I must say that I love our principal. I mean, I seriously love her. She is smart and caring and truly committed to the education and the happiness of each student that walks through the doors of her school.
I will say, though, that I wasn’t feeling the love as I chased the girls around with these darn fish. Last summer, as I wrote about in this post, this same wonderful principal required no reading at all. I wonder what changed. And when I was running around the house with fish templates, I was really wondering.
You see, my girls read voraciously this summer. Caroline continued her pattern of reading at least a book a day. Katherine and I read together every day, always a chapter book read aloud and often an easy reader to give Katherine the chance to develop her own independent reading skills. So, the fish felt, to me at least, a bit unnecessary. And that would be the word I would use when I was in a good mood about them.
I come back again and again to this concept of required reading and reading logs and reading responses. Kids who love reading, will read without these trappings. And completing these things will only make kids who don’t like to read all the more annoyed by the process.
As has happened so often this summer as Katherine and I make our way through the Ramona series, Ramona captured my thoughts exactly in a passage we read last night.
Beverly Cleary writes,
When time came for everyone to Drop Everything and Read, she sat quietly doing her Sustained Silent Reading.
How peaceful it was to be left alone in school. She could read without trying to hide her book under her desk or behind a bigger book. She was not expected to write lists of words she did not know, so she could figure them out by skipping and guessing. Mrs. Whaley did not expect the class to write summaries of what they read either, so she did not have to choose easy books to make sure she would get her summary right. Now if Mrs. Whaley would leave her alone to draw, too, school would be almost perfect.
It’s good to know that Mrs. Quimby might have hard time getting her little readers to fill out there fish too…