Donalyn Miller is a reading expert who also writes a blog. I took a look at her site today and the first post I read was about how the reading curriculum does not encourage reading. You already know the arguments, but one interesting one Miller added is that she read three picture books with her granddaughter but the books did not count as reading because there are no words.
I wrote the books down to check out of the library. I love wordless books. My kids don’t, but I read them to the kids anyway. I do it when I know the kids will put up with it, like when they think if I read them a book I will forget about practicing piano.
The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Fora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Also, if you’re really into wordless books, I love I Can’t Sleep, by Phillippe Dupasquier.
Aside from the wordless picture books, Miller’s post serves to explain why the schools are so stuck in a rut: Here is a reading teacher complaining that other teachers are not doing enough to make kids love reading. Yet this teacher’s vision of loving reading is reading all the books she likes.
There is no Walking Dead on her book list, even though it’s one of the most popular series for boys (including my son).
I glanced down the page to see what her earlier posts are like, and the next post was an apology for her not answering her emails. She told people that she has about 300 unanswered emails in her in box, and if she answered them she’d never have time to be with family and friends.
But wait? Isn’t answering emails reading and writing?
What Miller needs to learn is how to read emails quickly and give a two sentence response. Noa Kageyama has a signature file in his email that includes a link to an explanation for his terse email responses. He doesn’t write more than five sentences, a tactic which is among the best practices for email.
The good news is that if you are only going to write a short response, you only have to glance over a long email. To get the gist. Because you are not responding to all the details.
Miller needs to teach kids how to do this sort of reading, because this is information processing at the rate that adult life in the information age demands. But she can’t teach it to students because she can’t do it herself.
There’s a reason that teachers like this make so little money: they don’t have skills for the information age, and they are teaching reading as if students are in school forty years ago.
Luckily you can make up for this by teaching your kids to read and write in a way that allows them to process information the way that works for this century. Here are some ideas:
1. Don’t memorize anything. Read to know what is available, and get great at searching when you need specific information.
2. Archive all your emails instead of deleting them. You don’t need to process the information you receive via email, you need to know what is in your email so you can search it if you need that information later.
3. Teach Getting Things Done. Fanatics call this system GTD. It involves prioritizing, making lists, and having the self-discipline to stick to the system. The result is that you have both long-term and short-term goals and you know what you are doing each day to meet them.
4. Respond quickly. Our kids won’t use the same tools we use to communicate, but they will have tools that spew information at a high rate. So teaching a quick response is the reading system they need now. If you respond very quickly, people accept a one-sentence response. If you wait three weeks and then respond with one sentence you look like you don’t have a grip. You needed three weeks to think of that response?
5. Forget timed reading. This is like factory worker reading—not what anyone needs today. Have your kids read to meet a need. Maybe they want to know how many stars there are. Maybe they want to know what it’s like to have a first kiss. Maybe they want to cheat in Castle Crashers.
The only bad kind of reading is forced reading. Kids who do timed reading or reading charts are being forced to read in a way that’s not true to them. Parents who let emails pile up because they have to read and respond to every single word—they are doing forced reading, too. And both types of forced reading is guaranteed to exhaust the spark that makes us read to learn.