This is part 2 in Melissa’s case The Secret of the Resistant Readers.
I arrived at school on my sixth day teaching and hurried into the library. My shoulders immediately tensed.
Memories came rushing back of a day in March, the first day of my student teaching, when I had excitedly rushed in but was stopped in my tracks by the uninviting environment that stared back at me.
I recalled the school where I had completed my first student teaching assignment- an amazing, constructivist school where the library was easily one of the most exciting parts of the day.
Their library was breathtaking. There were couches and comfy chairs, lamps that gave off soft lighting, big windows that looked out onto the trees…
It was a stark contrast to the library I had walked into at my new school. With a tile floor, wooden chairs, and fluorescent lights it wasn’t exactly the coziest place you could imagine. I remember thinking, “Maaaayyyybe I can work with this.”
Until I inched closer to the bookshelves, my eyes glued to the selection…
At my old school, you could walk in, grab a stack of books, plop down in a comfy chair and hours would pass before you knew it. Any book you could imagine, from the classics to the newest best sellers, was beautifully displayed.
Here, as I examined the books, my heart dropped. Almost all of the books had been published in the 1970’s.
Then I started doing some quick calculations.
My school was serving over 1,200 students. The former school had served less than 100. My new school had less than half the number of books.
And that’s when my eyes began to well up with tears as outrage and sadness filled every cell of my being. It just didn’t seem right.
I felt defeated. I had read that California public school library funding ranked 46th out of 50 states, but seeing how that played out, among students where their chances for graduating were stacked against them…well, it just about broke my heart.
But on that day in September, I didn’t have time for broken hearts. I was a teacher in my very own classroom. I had 20 peanuts that I was responsible for.
A Sweet Clue
So on the sixth day of my ‘official teaching career,’ I looked around the library, and had a very different feeling. I was excited.
A quick examination of the evidence led me to a startling conclusion that had evidently been staring me right in the face!
I had been expecting my kids to love reading when they didn’t have a special, comfortable place where they could lose themselves for hours in words and pictures.
More importantly, I was expecting them to love to read…when they didn’t have good books!
It was like giving someone an out-of-tune piano with missing keys and asking them, “Why can’t you play the piano? Why don’t you like learning?”
I had to make sure my kids were given the opportunity to fall in love with books.
I hurried out of the library electrified-I was following my first lead as an official teacher (slash detective)!
I had concluded that my wisest choice would be to scour every garage sale and used bookstore in the area. My eyes sparkled in anticipation.
First case solved!
…or so I thought. Little did I know that this case was only beginning…
Takeaway Tip: Examine the environment! Children’s books should be all over the place in your house- in bedrooms, the den, the car. Even in the bathroom! Your child will be so much more likely to become a book lover if they’re surrounded by good books, and have an inviting place to read them.
Invitation: Would love to hear some of the unconventional places you or your kiddo keep books. Or your great ideas for making your “reading place” comfy.
Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.