>Every year about this time my blog changes tone slightly. I’m still eco-conscious, I’m still harvesting from the garden and cooking (and this year, canning) the produce. But as August ends and September approaches, Teacher Me moves to the forefront of my mind and my blog.
I’m reading a new resource for teaching reading: Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study in Teaching Reading. The first in the series is A Guide to the Reading Workshop. I’m reading along, and I keep stopping to contemplate. I think, “I should print out this quote to hang by my desk.” Then I read a little more and think, “This might work for (insert child’s name here). And then I begin thinking about specific children, former students, kids I’ve known, and how reading fit into their lives.
One young woman (she’d seen too much in her short life to really be a young girl) was part of a rather transient family. “Korrie” had moved four times; I was her fourth classroom teacher in one school year. I noticed she’s coming back to our school and rejoiced. She’s a difficult student, one with many problem behaviors, and what she needs most is stability. She’s coming back! The same building, same counselors, same rules and expectations, same core group of kids in her grade.
Korrie liked to read. Admit it, she wouldn’t, but once in a while it showed. She had a winning ticket in a prize drawing and she picked a book: a Junie B. Jones book. Easy to read, good quality writing. One day in a guided reading lesson, she admitted she’d read ahead – against advice. Then she looked down at her lap and muttered, “It’s a really good book.” I couldn’t be mad. I couldn’t help smiling, in fact. She tried to stop, but I caught her smiling back.
When I realized this, I made it a goal to get books into her hands. When she lost two library books and didn’t pay the fines, it broke my heart. Of all students, this one really needed the library. I called her dad. He sincerely cared about his daughter and wanted her to succeed in school. He paid for the lost books and promised to look for them. I promised he’d get a refund when (not if) the books turned up, even if it was a year later.
Looking at my class’ reading data showed another item: despite her stubborn attitude and frequent absences, Korrie had made a year’s progress in reading. She was still slightly below grade level, but she was learning. She was progressing.
Despite her chaotic life – an absent mother, frequent moves, very little money, difficulty making friends – this tense and angry ten-year-old could and did read.
I’m making a note to myself: talk to her fifth grade teacher. Let him know that reading is key with Korrie. Maybe, just maybe, we can help her be a child again – through reading.
>I really hope this girl gets what she needs. I was once her and books changed my life.
Given her age, I have a couple of book recommendations for her, if you'd be willing to pass them along. My girls and I really liked them and I think they'd good for her: "Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters" and "The Penderwicks." Also, an older one: "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."
>That gives me a whole new respect for Junie B Jones books. My boys like them but I find that character annoying.
>Reading is EVERYTHING.
>I am so grateful for teachers who care and are skilled enough to meet the needs of all the children they encounter.