Usually I just post my #JoyOfLearning article quotes once a week or so. But even though I posted a roundup on Monday, today I have three more articles that are well worth your time. The first two, both via Choice Literacy, are about the benefits of giving kids choice in what they read (even if a book seems to not be at their reading level, or seems "shallow" to the adult). The third article is about how grit involves more than just being persistent - the core attribute of grit involves being persistent in pursuing something that one is passionate about. There are strong implications here for how we encourage kids to try new things.
Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins: "If we don’t define our reading lives by a single metric, why should we narrow children’s choices? Why can’t we just let children check out more than one book—one that is “just right” and a couple that aren’t, by traditional standards? Why can’t we broaden our definitions of "just right" so that students can broaden theirs? Why can’t we let the first graders who read on a third-grade level check out Dr. Seuss books and let the Marcuses in our classrooms read graphic novels that give them energy for all reading?...
Our charge in helping students select books is an important one. In the same way that flexibility and choice increases our energy and enthusiasm for reading, the same is true for students. What’s more, this energy and enthusiasm is accompanied by fringe benefits: when children are excited about reading, they are more likely to read more pages and read for longer periods of time, both of which translate to increased proficiency as readers."
Me: This article begins with a tale of a first grader whose teacher stopped him from checking out a library book that he was excited about, because it wasn't at the right level for him. I vow that I will speak up if this happens to my first grade daughter at school this year. My daughter will pick up everything from board books to chapter books, depending on her mood. She can't do more than decode a few words of the chapter books, while the board books are easy for her. But me, I celebrate (quietly, inside) every time she is excited about a book, no matter what "level" that book might be.
Conversely (and this one is admittedly harder) I try never to push when she refuses to read a book that I think she'll like, because she doesn't like the cover. I just let it go - there are always other books. I feel strongly that at home she should have complete choice in what she reads, and what we read to her, because this probably will not always be the case in school.
Franki Sibberson: (After her students each celebrated one book from their third grade reading life) "These books I considered shallow, that were not quite the high-quality literature I know, changed my kids' reading lives in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Each day as a child shared, I was reminded of the brilliance of the authors who write for young children—authors who know just what a child needs to continue their reading journey...
As each child celebrated, I realized how often I try to rush my students’ journeys as readers, push them to books they are not quite ready for, encourage them to read the books I love. Through the month of celebrations I came to love these books that I wasn’t so excited about at the start of the school year. I don’t love them in the same way that I love Bridge to Terabithia, but I love them because they are the right books for my third graders.
I learned as I have over and over again to trust my students to make good choices as readers."
Me: This is a hard one for parents and teachers who are book-lovers, I think. We have books that we are so excited to share with our kids that we push them to read them. But kids have reasons for liking the books that they like. Personal reasons. Developmental reasons. Just as we adults have reasons for liking the books that we like (personal choice, escapism, professional development, etc.). Cheers to Franki Sibberson for recognizing the value that "shallower" books have for her students, and for reminding the rest of us about this.
Christine Carter: "But true grit—the kind that is equal measures passion and persistence—is a solid strategy for both success AND happiness. And it is something we can easily foster in ourselves, and in our children.
First, find and fuel passion. If you are a parent or teacher looking to foster grit in kids, the first step is to let go of what you want for them, and watch for what they are passionate about. Then, simply support their passions.
In order for kids to even know what they are interested in, they need exposure to a lot of different things. They will never know that they are passionate about tennis or Shakespeare or rock-climbing or piano if they never have a chance to try those things out."
Me: Carter makes an important distinction in this post between perfectionism (accomplishing things out of a fear of not accomplishing them) and sticking with something because one is passionate about it. Forcing our kids to stick to things that don't bring them joy can be a recipe for their unhappiness. The same can be said for us.