Monday, October 10, 2016

You Can't Read That!

Go get a different book.
That book is too hard for you.
You can't read that.
That book is not on your level.
You need an easier book.

I must (sadly) admit as a previous classroom teacher of 12 years, I probably uttered one or more of these phrases to any given student thinking that I was helping them make a better choice that would further their reading.  But instead, what I probably did was make that child like reading a little less.  

Today I had the pleasure of hearing the one and only Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) speak in my district about Voice and Choice in Reading.  She spoke for 2 wonderful hours and gave information, personal anecdotes and research about students and reading and choice.  But this one quote, mentioned very early on, is what has stuck with me for the rest of the day.

So instead of building the student into a better reader by making them choose a book "on their level", what I did, was tell them they were not good enough or able enough to read "that" book.  

What could I have done instead? 

 *Maybe ask them to sit and read a page or two with me and see if they change their mind once they read a few pages.

*Have a "preview stack" of books ready for a child that continuously chooses challenging books and say "Take a look at these books I thought you might like!" 

*Ask "Are you and your mom/dad/grandma going to read that together?"

*Check to see if there is an audio version of the book and let them download that to a device to read along.

And then the unthinkable... let them check it out anyway!  

Maybe they have a desire to persevere and read through the book,  Maybe they hide a "baby book" in the pages of the bigger book so no one knows what they are reading. Maybe they just want to be like the other kids.  Maybe choosing a book in the library is the only choice they have control over that day.  

Maybe I need to find a way to support them and help them like reading because as Donalyn said, "If not us, then who?"

What key phrases or techniques do you use to help a student choose books?


  1. You are so right! Let them find books they are interested in and kids will read. If we force feed them a book that they have no interest in, they are not going to open it at all.

  2. Exactly- I cringe now when I hear teachers tell kids to put a book back.