Okay. So I'm sitting at a "Literacy Institute" and I'm surprised by a comment from a teacher who says she doesn't like to read.

Doesn't like to read? An elementary teacher, in charge of teaching kids to READ, doesn't like to READ herself? What's up with THAT? That's like a boat salesman who doesn't like water! Or a astronaut who doesn't like space travel, or a baker who doesn't like bread... (Feel free to add your own analogy in the comment box!)

How can you teach kids how to read if you don't like to read yourself? Sadly, this is NOT the first time I've heard something like this. (Thankfully, the work of Karen Kingsbury has been nothing short of life-changing to many of my former non-reading colleagues and friends. I even had one teacher somewhat upset with me because she had such a hard time putting those books down after being introduced to them that she was losing sleep!)

So, here's my plea to school administrators around the world: Please ask EVERY interviewee if she considers herself to be a reader and what books she's read lately. Then ask her if she considers herself to be a writer and what types of things she's written lately. Seriously, ASK!

What do you think? Can someone whose main job is to teach literacy do so without being actively literate themselves? Can someone whose main job is to teach mathematics (or any other given subject/content area) do so without being actively literate?

Update June 2009:
I still think that to teach reading, and teach it well, you NEED to be a reader! And by reader, I mean a reader of MULTIPLE texts and genres, including novels, magazines, AND online reading. Would still like to hear your thoughts.
:-)

Views: 252

Tags: Karen, Kingsbury, aliterate, reading, teachers, writing

Comment by Maureen Ericikson on July 3, 2008 at 7:07am
You hit the nail on the head. I saw one school that had laminated sheets hanging outside of each room that said, "__(teacher name here)_____ is currently reading
(name of book here)_____ ask me about it!" I loved it. Kids need to know what teachers are reading and writing. I often write example essays and poems and the students love it! Great, great blog Michelle!
Comment by Michelle TeGrootenhuis on July 4, 2008 at 9:19am
Thanks, Maureen! I have a sign like that outside of my door! :-)
Also, sharing what you write with your students is not only great teaching, but also very courageous! Good for you!
Comment by Kevin W on July 5, 2008 at 5:39pm
Hi Mrs.TG,

While I agree with most of what you say, I do believe that there can be a difference between an aliterate teacher and an illiterate teacher. Even though an aliterate teacher can certainly help to foster illiteracy in many cases, it may not always be the case. I do know of some teachers (especially male teachers) who would probably never read a book (outside of what is required for their curriculum). Yet many of them are good teachers.

As for your question "How can you teach kids how to read if you don't like to read yourself?" I think that it is possible to teach kids things that you yourself do not like. I have not always liked all the subjects that I taught. And probably most teachers do have areas they do not like to teach as much as other areas. As teachers we need to work extra hard in these areas to paint the subject in a positive light for the kids and not let our own biases about the subject affect how we come across.

I am of course aware that literacy goes beyond just teaching kids to read and of course is required for all subject areas.
Comment by Michelle TeGrootenhuis on July 5, 2008 at 9:45pm
Kevin,
Thanks for your comment. It sure got me thinking. Here's some things for you to consider...

You said, "I do know of some teachers (especially male teachers) who would probably never read a book (outside of what is required for their curriculum). Yet many of them are good teachers." Me, too.
BUT,
are they responsible for teaching READING?

You also said, "I think that it is possible to teach kids things that you yourself do not like." Sure, I could try to teach someone how to play golf, but they would soon see through my facade and try to find a REAL golf instructor (I hate that game--PICK up the dumb ball and drop it in the hole--problem solved! :-). If you don't actually LIKE it, why would you want to teach it? THOSE teachers are the dispassionate ones that follow and kill that basal and all accompanying worksheets day in and day out. Don't kid yourself, kids can tell if you really enjoy something or not. And most of the time, they will mirror that enthusiasm or lack there of.

My point is, whatever you do, do it with the passion that it deserves! If you teach golfing lessons, learn to LOVE to play golf! If you work on a factory line, learn to LOVE the rhythm and predictability. If you teach science, learn to LOVE scientific inquiry! But most importantly, if you teach reading, and, obviously I feel quite strongly about this, you MUST learn to LOVE reading! If not, find a different job or at least a different position. Don't suffer through teaching reading, because chances are, your students are going to learn how to suffer through it, too.

Thanks again for the comment, Kevin. I understand your thinking, but I hope I clarified my point of view.

PS 1Cor 10:31 says, "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
and Col 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men."
I think the Big Guy is on this side of the fence. ;-)

-MTG
Comment by ddeubel on July 6, 2008 at 7:19pm
As someone intimately involved in literacy and language learning (reading), I second the comment about passion.

But it isn't so simple. I would throw out two caveats.

1. What do you mean by "teach" reading? It isn't a paint by numbers skill so the teacher is much more a facilitator when it comes to reading....

2. Our students are different. We are different. Seems to me, everyone so far without a glance sideways, is drumming the same drum - Reading = Books.
Couldn't disagree more. You might not love to read books but you might love other forms of text. You might nowadays never even read script but "listen" and see the words jump in your head. No paper BUT this is just as much Reading as ever. Today's students are gropping out of Gutenberg's galaxy and headed to Imagineatopia...

Just my thoughts....

If anyone is interested in untraditional ways to encourage demotivated readers, please check out the karaoke stories/music etc...on EFL Classroom 2.0

David
http://eflclassroom.ning.com
Comment by Michelle TeGrootenhuis on July 6, 2008 at 10:18pm
Right, David!
Certainly, being literate in the 21st century involves more than traditional books and "reading" can take on many forms.

That said, BOOKS are still (and I hope forever will be) an integral part of our world and I feel that loving to READ them (as well as a variety of texts/formats) is a must for teachers of reading. Again, I'd expect a science teacher to LOVE science and a math teacher to love math, and quite simply, a reading teacher should love reading!

BTW, thanks for the link to the EFL webpage. I'm in the process of downloading the software for karaoke right now! Looks promising!

MTG
Comment by ddeubel on July 8, 2008 at 12:11am
MTG-

Here is another thread where I reference about karaoke and some recent research on how it helps struggling readers....

Also, here is an article from Dayton Ohio about a grade 5 classroom...how they use karaoke.

David
http://eflclassroom.ning.com

Karaoke and Reading in the Classroom Article.jpg
Comment by Lisa Parisi on July 14, 2008 at 6:53am
Michelle,

Some people here have made some very good points.

1.As elementary teachers, we are responsible for teaching everything. There is no way we can be passionate about everything. Reading might be the thing we are not passionate about. It does not mean we don't teach it and teach it well. I happen to be a great math teacher because I struggled with it in school and hated every minute of it. I work hard to make math more meaningful for my students.

2. Reading does not always mean reading books. I know a teacher who is a voracious reader and never picks up a book. He reads articles on the Internet, researches topics, and is really brilliant. He also teaches his students how to read and does a fabulous job, incorporating digital literacy into his curriculum quite nicely.

3. Many students I have taught do not like to pick up books. But they love stories and plots and creating original text. Podcasts and books on tape are perfect for them. Occasionally I find the perfect book for them, one they can't put down. But it rarely leads to them becoming an avid reader. Even when choosing a similar book or one by the same author.

I am glad you love reading. I do too. And I enjoy sharing what I read with the students, usually during a curriculum discussion relating to the book. But this doesn't have to be a prerequisite for teaching.
Comment by Michelle TeGrootenhuis on July 14, 2008 at 11:06am
Thanks for adding your thoughts, Lisa. I read and reread this many times:

"As elementary teachers, we are responsible for teaching everything. There is no way we can be passionate about everything. Reading might be the thing we are not passionate about. It does not mean we don't teach it and teach it well."

My thinking is that one of the primary goals of elementary education is to create READERS.

So, I believe that elementary teachers (at least those that teach reading) NEED to be passionate about reading and teaching reading. (I think ALL teachers should be actively literate, but for the sake of THIS discussion, I'm focused on elementary teachers.)

Also, you might be "sufficient" in teaching reading, but to do it "well" I think you need that passion.

And don't we want our most passionate educators teaching this most fundamental of all subjects? Shouldn't we demand that passion? Strike that, how about, "Shouldn't we ENCOURAGE and FEED that passion?"

Thanks for making me THINK this morning! Keep those comments flowing! :-)
Comment by Lisa Parisi on July 14, 2008 at 2:21pm
I think we just need to expand our idea of reading a bit. One might be passionate about reading books, one might be passionate about reading newspapers and magazines, one might be passionate about reading technology reviews, or blogs or twitter or comments in Classroom 2.0. Passion for reading books does not necessarily make for a fabulous elementary teacher.

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