Primum non nocere,…

Maybe every profession should have an expressed, noteworthy, and well-known tenet–words to live by.

Check out this blog post by Donnalyn Miller, a 6th grade language arts teacher from Texas, who is known as The Book Whisperer, due to her gift for bringing dormant readers–her term, not mine, but it is brilliant–to life. I, too, believe that we may have done significant harm to students of all ages by pushing testing and test-taking skill and drill on them, to the point where the once wider curriculum has been narrowed to a laser-like focus (to borrow a phrase from the edreform crowd) on reading and math; the teaching of abstract concepts has been pushed into lower and lower grades in spite of what educators know about child development (thank you, Jean Piaget) and learning theory; and less time is left in the day for kids to hone their reading skills and develop a love for books and a lifelong appreciation for the joys of reading BY READING real books, cover to cover.

Miller’s blog post, First Do No Harm, is well worth reading and considering. The following really caught my attention:

“Not only am I a passionate reader, I am a great test taker, too. I can dissect tests on topics that I do not know that much about (check out my GRE scores) in large part because I am a great reader. But, let’s not put the cart before the horse, I am good test-taker because I am a good reader; I am not a good reader because I am good test-taker.”  

Oh, yeah. I get it. I understand her point and completely agree, because I am also a boffo test taker. As are my two kids, and my friend Patricia. A lifelong dedication to reading and learning through reading does not hurt!

I taught reading every day for 17 years as a third grade teacher in two different elementary schools. For the next 22 years, I taught science in a middle school. But, I know that I taught reading every day there as well. I know that the more kids read, the better their reading skills will be. The more they read, the better their vocabularies will be–both spoken and written vocabularies. More reading will improve spelling. It will improve speaking. Most of all, it will improve writing skills. Sounds like powerful stuff to me. Sounds like best practice material.

The power of READING. Not studying reading. Not learning about books and reading. And, certainly not taking reading tests. READING. Now, get out there, find a good book, and read, for God’s sake! 

This entry was posted in A Good Education, Curriculum, Literacy, Students and Schools, Teachers and Teaching, Testing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Primum non nocere,…

  1. Gilda says:

    Brilliant post-game, set, match.

    Some of my favorites:
    “Teaching reading IS rocket science.” Louisa Moats

    “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglass

    “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Emilie Buchwald

    “So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.” Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    “The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I [haven’t] read.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    “I cannot live without books.” Thomas Jefferson

    “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. ” Groucho Marx

    “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?” David Balducci

    “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein

    “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
    Dr. Suess, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

    “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
    Ray Bradbury

    I could go on and on, but I realize I’m preaching to the choir! EXCELLENT job, Frederika!

  2. Eva Peterson says:

    I am good test-taker because I am a good reader; I am not a good reader because I am good test-taker. VERY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION!! So I am reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sachs and rereading to pick up useful info–after so much has been disgarded and formula ridden– there is still something left–The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner


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