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!