During my time in the teaching profession I have watched districts go through numerous textbook adoptions, always searching for that “just right” fit. That dreaded word, basal. There is NO TEXTBOOK that can do what REAL BOOKS can do. There is no instructional practice or book designed to improve the reading of EVERY child.
What’s your goal as a literacy teacher? Do you want your students to be able to read a text, answer questions about it, and do well on a comprehension test? If that’s it, then stop right here. This post is not for you.
REAL BOOKS excite students and foster a deep love for reading THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN with a textbook. REAL BOOKS cause readers to REACT, RESPOND, and RELATE. My students always talk about the emotions books make them feel, good and bad. If you are not emotionally or intellectually connected to a text, you will not learn from it or grow from it.
If you’re still reading, I want to share with you the literacy motto that the teachers in my building and myself came up with to show our goals for our readers and writers.
Of course there’s always the thought in the back of teacher’s minds about testing. I am a very anti teach-to-the-test teacher, and research supports that idea, too! In Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild, there is an entire chapter on how positive interactions with authentic text and time spent reading improve test scores.
If you ever come across anyone who is battling with you about using a basal reader your classroom, I ask you to ask yourself, “What’s best for kids?” I can guarantee that answer isn’t going to be: The story written to teach you that the character Suzie needs to be a better friend to her toad, that you’ll read 5 times in one week and then give a quiz over.
So throw out the workbook, the worksheet, the textbook, and grab ahold of that book you read that changed you forever. Grab a stack of the beautiful and text intensive picture books that you read about or saw at the library. Sit down with your students and READ. You’ll be a better teacher, and they’ll be better readers.
Real books, authentic teaching, no other way!