I have either read or heard this phrase, “We are all reading teachers” spoken many times, often in response to the problem of students seemingly reading less and less.
I disagree with this statement.
We are not all reading teachers and we shouldn’t be. The math teacher who loves complex computations and the science teacher that loves experiments should be allowed to just explore and teach their subjects, adding the responsibility of “reading teacher” to their plate is not going to increase our students reading ability. I have countless hours of PD, training and books read all about improving my literacy instruction. I have lessons on strategies that I have chosen for a reason, to address a gap in my classroom or with a specific reader. I feel very strongly that applying the label “every teacher is a reading teacher” really erodes the idea that reading is something that deserves passionate instruction, reading instruction deserves teachers that understand the importance of choice, independent reading. Reading instruction deserves a teacher that sees the value of book talks, exploring the subtle things an author does to create understanding. Reading instruction deserves a teacher that utilizes all forms of text to show students that reading is not just a textbook and that information comes in all forms. Not everyone is a reading teacher, and that is ok.
What we all can be is promotors of reading. Every teacher can do small things to show students that being a lifelong reader has great benefits not just in education but in life. As a reading promotor, there are a few things that can benefit our students starting tomorrow.
- Discuss your reading life (if you don’t have one, come talk to me). Students that see the adults in their lives as readers will be more inclined to read themselves. I talk about the books, the articles or even just the quotes I read daily. A math teacher can talk about some fun novel they are reading or a sports article they read. Reading does not need to be course specific and in my opinion, modeling that is authentic (real world) is a much more believable model than say, ” I was reading this great math article on the principles of …” Your math passionate learners might be there but others might not take that example as one to emulate.
- Course Specific Reading as more than just information. So much of reading outside of the language arts classroom is about the testing that ends a unit or a course. The all-important “WHY?” is too often to achieve higher results on a test, I read this in the text and it is the answer to this question. The purpose to read is filled when the exam is finished. This model of reading does not build a lifelong reader or importantly a student that reads with thought and not just searching for test answers. As a course specific teacher, to promote reading, promote thinking. Provide text to build background knowledge, promote curiosity, exploration, and question asking around text that ties to your curriculum. Show students the vastness of text out there beyond a preorganized text book. There is not going to be a textbook for them in adulthood to find answers they are looking for, model that reading lifestyle for them now.
I am not a math or science teacher, I would not be expected to do that and would laugh out loud if the statement was made, “We are all Math Teachers” (no one wants me in that role). As a teacher of reading, I can promote those other subjects in the work I do, information gathering and research skills will help across the board. Those teachers can help promote my area of instruction as well without thinking they are having to do more things and be a “reading teacher”
Our students need models of living a reading life, I will handle the teaching, I am trained for that. For all the other amazing educators that are passionate in other areas all I ask is that you show them you read too.