Celebrate This Week: Why I Teach Reading

This week, one of my students asked me why I teach reading.

I’ve been thinking about this question in the context of this week.

We’re getting ready. For the test. We took on testing language.

What does that mean?” was a typical reaction to a phrase like, “draw a conclusion.”

It’s not that students hadn’t heard the words before or read texts on grade level or responded to questions.

We’ve been doing this all year. But there’s a difference.

We’ve used these words as learners. There has been approximation, engagement, not mastery. We’ve done the work in texts of choice. The questions have grown out our thinking.

Testing changes context.

The work is not learning. It is responding. It’s right and wrong.

This week, students noticed author’s point of view, made inferences, drew conclusions and found evidence in the text to support their thinking.  The same thing they have done all year. But this week, it was done in a static situation with one text and fixed questions.

It’s unsettling.

One could argue we needed more practice with this kind of work.

One could spend all year getting used to this sort of language. Working in same texts, answering questions with test-like question stems. I’ve done this. But there is a cost.

If we spend our precious time teaching this kind of reading and this type of questioning, the work would be familiar. Perhaps scores would be higher. It’s a possibility.

But if we do this, students will walk out of our doors with an aborted view of reading. Reading for knowledge and pleasure will diminish. And, I believe a result could be that the resources available to them as adults will evaporate along with the richness of a life of learning.

We do students a huge disservice if we don’t give them the opportunity to access enjoyment and to learn through reading.  Providing a classroom environment that reaches that potential is the challenge and craft of being a reading teacher. This is the magic that is reading. This is why I teach reading.

This week, I celebrate testing language a few weeks before the test.

This week, I celebrate knowing why I teach reading.


Thank you, Ruth Ayers, for a place to share our thoughts and celebrations each week. Read more celebrations here.