Make Love Of Reading The First Objective

Doug Johnson

“The myths we allow ourselves to believe about reading will continue to shape the reading lives of those we teach. We have to stop ourselves from harming the reading experience. We have to take control of what we say, what we do, and what we think because our students are the ones being affected. We have a tremendous power to destroy the very reading identity we say we want to develop. It stops now. It stops with us.”
–Pernille Ripp

“I think we teachers are part of the problem. I think our silence while we seethe inside at the new initiatives being dictated to us means that we are now complicit in the killing of the love of reading. I think we have sat idly by for too long as others have told us that students will love reading more if we limit them further and guide them more. We have held our tongue while practices have been marched into our classrooms disguised by words like research-based, rigorous, and common-core aligned. We have held our tight smiles as so-called experts sold our districts more curriculum, more things to do, more interventions, more repetitions. We have stayed silent because we were afraid of how our words would be met, and I cannot blame any of us. Standing up and speaking out is terrifying, especially if you are speaking out against something within your own district. But we cannot afford to stay silent anymore. With the onslaught of more levels, more logs, more things to do with what they read all in the name of deeper understanding, we have to speak up. Reading is about time to read first. Not all of the other things. And if we are sacrificing time to read to instead teach children more strategies, then we are truly missing the point of what we should be doing. Enough… it is time for us to Become Reading Warriors.”
–Pernille Ripp

“I don’t know about you, but…

  • I did not become a reader because someone held me accountable for reading.
  • I did not become a reader because someone offered me “points” or other incentives for the quantity of books or pages I read.
  • I did not become a reader because someone limited my reading selections to only to those titles on a certain reading level or within a specific lexile band.
  • And I did not become a reader because someone forced me to complete reading logs, write book reports or create (and then reuse) the occasional diorama.”

–Jennifer LaGuarde


Each of these posts emphasizes that teaching the skills of reading is not enough. We also need to make sure our students love to read as well. Read in full each of these posts. I’ll wait…

I’ve always proclaimed that classroom teachers teach kids how to read; librarians teach kids to love to read. No, it’s not that simple. You won’t love to read unless you have some fundamental reading skills, and you won’t read well unless you like to read. Emotions and skills are interdependent.

Each year, I hope more classroom teachers (and policy-makers) realize that the love of reading is as important as the skills of reading. And I hope there are librarians in every school to put the right book into the right hand at the right time for every child. That reminds parents and teachers and administrators that free voluntary reading improves test scores. But that the love of reading is in and of itself a very good thing.

Like my friend Jennifer LaGarde cited above, I too can remember significant adults who stirred my passion for reading:

  • Both my grandmothers read aloud to me. And my mother was a role model for reading as a pleasant pastime.
  • A school superintendent to whose office I was sent when I became intolerable in the elementary classroom and would pull down sample literature textbooks for me to read while serving my time out in her office.
  • A public librarian who allowed me to check out adult mythology books after acknowledging that I had read all the books of myths and legends in the children’s collection.

I am sure there were others who inculcated my love of reading. To those unmentioned, thank you as well.

Would I have learned to read were I in school today? Was I to have to take a test after reading every chapter? Was I not allowed to read materials of my choice? Were I in competition with other students on how many pages I’d read? (I am not a real fast reader.) Was I given candy or a toy or a sticker each time I read a book?

A common mantra among educators is “all children can learn.” This seems a rather shallow and a very low bar. All chickens “can learn” when rewarded with a kernel of corn for pecking the correct lever. Why doesn’t our goal become “all children will love to learn” and make the love of reading our first objective?

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