In kindergarten I read books about Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff, and Spot. They lived in a town with houses, sidewalks, and fenced yards. They seemed to have fun and play a lot. The girls and Mother always wore dresses and the older characters had the longer dresses. As for the guys, the Dad always wore long pants and the boys wore shorts and long sleeve shirts or sweaters. It wasn’t my neighborhood (a farm) or the way we dressed (church clothes, school clothes, play clothes). I didn’t know if the stories were real or pretend.
I was reading before I went to kindergarten so I’m not sure of the impact of the environment depicted in Dick and Jane books. I already loved books. And I dearly loved reading. School was fun, for the most part. But some of it was sheer drudgery. The silly workbooks, the round-robin reading, and reading one story a week was so . . .
excruciatingly . . .
As well as dry, dull and desperately boring. We stopped all the time to answer questions about our reading. The pacing was synonymous with a turtle and at many times, so darned tedious. But I loved books. And I loved reading. I loved reading for the windows into other worlds . . . enchanted, far away worlds! I didn’t see myself, my family or my neighbors in any of the stories I read.
But what if I hadn’t loved reading?
A groundswell exists for an elementary curriculum that includes both mirrors and windows for ALL our students.
“All students deserve a curriculum which mirrors their own experience back to them, upon occasion — thus validating it in the public world of the school.” (Source)
Are ALL of our students validated?
Last week at the #TCRWP June 2018 Writing Institute I was reading Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time to a group of third grade teachers. We were analyzing the text for “techniques” of narrative text and this book by James Howe had many. It was a new book for many of the teachers in the group, but the part that stuck with me were the brilliant words from our leader Simone Fraser:
“Read Alouds in our classrooms need to be more inclusive. It is important that ALL students are represented in our Read Alouds. We need to make sure that we read from at least ALL the bands of text that students are reading.” Simone Fraser
Broadening the definition of inclusivity.
This sounds so much like ‘common sense’, but are teachers doing this?
First, qualitatively. I am not saying you would start at Level H and read through to Level O (remembering that levels are only Teacher Tools), but do you purposefully read texts from bands that represent the students seated on the floor in front of you and that allow the students to ‘see themselves reading texts’ in your classroom?
And then a second issue, do the students actually see themselves, their neighborhoods and their cultures in the books in your classrooms? What of neighborhoods that are so homogeneous that they need to see even more diverse communities? How do you build libraries that expand the world?
As teachers decompress, plan and re-plan for those first days of school next year, I would challenge each and every one to consider how those first days of school (August or September) could be more inclusive.
What if the opening community-building Read Alouds were mirrors of the reading students did in previous years?
What if the opening community-building Read Alouds included one from each band of text – matching the students in front of the teacher?
What if the opening community-building Read Alouds were mirrors of the students and their cultures?
What if the opening community-building Read Alouds were fun, inspirational and then lovingly placed in a basket labeled “Our Favorite Books to Re-Read”?
To feel welcomed.
To feel accepted.
To revisit old friends.
To build community.
To demonstrate the value of re-reading!
To remember the excitement of that “first read”!
How do you welcome EVERY child to your reading community?
How could Read Alouds, that correspond to your students’ previous reading, build empathy and respect as well as empower and engage your students?
How could those beginning of the year Read Alouds strengthen and build upon student successes, positive attitudes and reading habits?
How are you including both mirrors and windows in your classroom book collection?
Isn’t this the “Engagement, Excellence and Equity that should be quaranteed for ALL students?
And as you are planning, remember these words from Lin Manuel’s tweet . . .
“You’re gonna make mistakes.
You’re gonna fail.
You’re gonna get back up.
You’re gonna break hearts.
You’re gonna change minds.
You’re gonna make noise.
You’re gonna make music.
You’re gonna be late, let’s GO” @
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.