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Kathryn Reads KidLit

I am an upper elementary teacher who loves reading and sharing books with my students and fellow educators.

How do we change the world?

Marcus is one of the very few librarians in the vast St. Paul Public school district and an owner of Addendum and what all of us as teachers want when we walk into a bookstore.  My arms were soon overflowing with good new books and my heart with his kind words.  We discussed the state of reading instruction and swapped book recommendations, and our discussion continued via twitter after I left, and eventually basically came down to: How Do We Change The World (more or less).


Sometimes when we connect on twitter through #nerdybookclub, #bookaday, #complitchat, #bproots, #titletalk, #nctechat, #cyberpd, and others, we feel like the majority.  We are a community of believers.  We have all read The Book Whisperer, Readicide, Book Love, and others.  We have transformed our teaching, filled our classroom with books we have bought at garage sales and off the new releases shelf, given students choice and voice, and read like crazy to catch up on the latest and greatest books to share with our kids.  We don't gather to convince each other, but to share ideas, titles, and successes.  It can feel like this is a mindshift that has become the standard, the way reading looks in classrooms everywhere.  Visit schools, attend a traditional conference, talk with a librarian, and realize it is not.


So, how do we change the world?  My answer is model and hope.   Education is a field of fads, of new programs, of the latest and greatest.  Some of it is, and some of it isn't.  The changes that I have seen and experienced that are most effective are those that are led by passionate educators learning, questioning, and trying new things.  Very few of us who are teaching reading based on reading real books with choice started this way.  My first year moving down to elementary with my one college literacy methods  class to draw on, I used the basal.  I hated it, but had no other ideas.  Another teacher suggested Daily 5, so I tried that the next year, and read The Book Whisperer sometime that fall.  This last year was my third year and I used the Units of Study from Lucy Calkins.  It was a process, it didn't happen overnight and we can't expect that it will for others, when they see the light.  So how do they see that light?


I think the way that we affect the teachers around us is to make it impossible for them to ignore the successes we are having using real book, choice-based literacy.  We don't have to preach it and talk their ear off until they switch their lunch time.  We can keep our doors open, let our reading and writing communities spill out into the hallways.  We can be the class that reads while waiting for the assembly to start and during that awkward 4 minutes in the hallway between reading to the first graders and music.  We can talk about the books we are reading - the children's books, the MG and YA books.  We can share "Today I am Reading:" as a teacher, as students, as readers.  We can invite other classes into our rooms to read with us and let them hear and see the way we live books.


And then we hope.  We hope they see and hear how our kids love to read and talk about their reading.  We hope that they change just one thing this year.  We hope we see them at the next garage sale grabbing all the good books.  We hope that they come and ask if they can borrow our ragged (and signed, because we are nerds!) copy of The Book Whisperer.  We hope.  And if it isn't this year, we keep doing it next year.

Next time he loads my arms full of new books for my kids, and we sit down over a cup of coffee, Marcus and I probably won’t be discussing a major shift that has happened in the reading kids are doing in the schools we see.  But, we might be able to talk about the small rays of hope, the teacher who asked him to order The Book Whisperer, the secretary who responded to my email with the book she is reading. The little signs that our successes are being noticed, that what we do makes a difference, that we are changing the world every time we get a good book into a kid’s hands. That we have reason to hope.