I’m participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge, hoping to write every day in March. My thanks to them, their team and to all of the writing community there that provides support and caring challenge as we all strive to be better writers and better coaches of developing, literate learners.
Little eyes peeked over top of the picture book my daughter pressed to her face (a sign of book love).
“Please read this to me?”
She held out “Stuck with the Blooz,” a book she’d chosen all by her four-year-old self at the library earlier that day while I was looking for my own books.
“Sure” I said” “Let’s have a look.”
As I opened the cover, she touched my arm, “You’re going to love this.”
“Oh,” I replied, a bit surprised “so…you’ve read this already?”
“Yeah, it’s good,” she assured me, “read it.”
Two sentences in, my preschooler began pointing at parts of the illustrations saying things like “see? see? look what he’s doing!” and “Look what’s going to happen next!”She was right about everything that was going to happen, and she was right that I’d love the book. She was right because she’d really read the book herself first.
Now, some people might tell you that my little D can’t read yet. The truth is that she recognizes letters and some sounds, although she doesn’t decode words independently yet. But she can read. She’s literate. Because I believe that reading means bringing meaning to a text in order to make meaning from a text, I’m able to see that she is, in fact, reading, even though she’s not decoding words yet. She can skillfully interpret nuanced illustrations. She understands how books and stories work. She’s interested in predicting what will come next and then following up to see if her prediction was accurate. She knows that she can go to a book by herself, look through it purposefully and get meaning and joy from a text. The kid is a reader and she believes she is.
Ten years ago, if you’d asked me if she was reading, I’d probably have said no. That’s because, at that time, I didn’t know enough about developing readers and writers and text-makers to know what I should be looking for to help me answer that question. I hadn’t yet learned that I needed to first determine what a learner knew and could do before I could plan for their next steps in learning. I hadn’t yet learned how to look deeper to discover all the abilities a child had that would support them in continuing to develop their literacy abilities. As I read to my child and watched her interact with the whole text of the book, I was struck again by her assertion that I’d love the book.
Having though about it many time yesterday, I realize her saying that reflected important information about her identity as a reader. She is already literate. She’s developed some sophisticated reading skills. But most importantly she knows and says she’s a reader, and she’s a confident one, confident enough to recommend books to others.
What if we began each day looking at our developing readers, writers, meaning makers and instead of asking “are you literate?” we asked “how are you literate?” I wonder how our interactions with learners would change if we went looking for what they were able to do and used that information to plan what we might expose them to, engage them in next. All of our learners come to us literate–what beautiful questions can we ask that will help reveal all the abilities they already have?