Reflection and Discovery: The Power of Independent Reading in Reading Identity

Over the course of our careers, we have always found reflection a valuable tool in our efforts to match our beliefs to our actions. As young, idealistic, energetic first year teachers, we would often stand in our empty classrooms at the end of the day and reflect on each part of the day.  After a particularly challenging day, our reflections included questions such as: “How did I react in the moment when things went awry? How do I want to handle those moments? What can I do differently tomorrow?”  After a particularly successful day, our questions shifted to: “What did I do that worked today? How can I do that again tomorrow?” As classroom teachers and now as consultants, regardless of how the day goes, our reflective work centers around three key questions of identity:
Who am I as a teacher?  
Who do I want to be as a teacher?  
How do I get there?
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Letting Go of Labels and Trusting Reading Identity

My son pours over illustrations and devours graphic novels, especially those with sophisticated potty humor.  Dav Pilkey has mythical status in our house. Garfield comics abound.  Chris Van Dusen’s illustrations merit hours of close study.
Yet despite his love of reading at home, my son did not see himself as a successful reader at school.  During independent reading, he studied the illustrations and rarely focused on the words. By October of first grade, he was labeled as “disengaged” and a “struggling reader.” And although those words were never said directly to him, he felt their weight.  
My son watched his friends read increasingly difficult texts and was aware that he could not read the words with similar success.  His teacher tried to support him. However,  she inevertantly made the all-too-common, label-led decision to focus on what my son was notdoing as a reader. She focused on word solving strategies yet, he rarely applied these strategies to his independent reading.  Over time, my son internalized the message that his interactions with the illustrations were not a strength, they were a distraction.  
In March of first grade, COVID happened.  Overnight, my work as a literacy consultant  disappeared.  And as a mom, my work with my own reader took on a new life.  My husband and I decided to homeschool Charlie through second grade.  I was back in the classroom…or the basement that we now use as a classroom.  
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Building Better Independent Reading: Creating Classroom Spaces for Independent Reading

Teachers have the unique opportunity to start fresh each year. This fresh start often begins with designing the classroom space for a new group of students. Think of the classroom as a blank canvas for your students; what messages does it send about the type of learning that is promoted and valued in that space?  As we linger in classrooms, we uncover the stories of individual and collective learning. 

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