There. I said it. I don’t use them. If you look around my classroom, you will see an extensive collection of children’s literature. Much of my collection has been sorted according to topic and some is sorted by author or genre. What you won’t see are tubs of books labeled A, B, and C. Please allow me to explain WHY.
I don’t believe the purpose of teaching is to prepare children for a test. I used to believe that this WAS the purpose so you will not get ANY judgment from me if you still believe this is the case. Reading at level C by the end of kindergarten, right? That’s the goal. I used to believe that if I didn’t accomplish this, then I wasn’t doing my job. So, I started with A. I sent home the A books for homework. For months. If you were one of the unlucky recipients of this drudgery, I apologize. At the end of the week, I would test the students to see if they could “read” the book. Some had it memorized, some couldn’t, some never took it out of the bag. If you were in the latter group, give yourself a pat on the back. You did the right thing.
Now, underpinning this very linear plan of moving children from A to C were a few misguided assumptions on my part. I assumed children were interested in learning to read. I assumed that if they could actually read an A book, that would make them want to read more A books. Then they would want to read B books. And then C books. However, this plan ended up being counterproductive. Not only did the children who weren’t interested in reading less interested, many of them now associated learning to read books with the most boring, most repetitive homework of all time. Homework for parents and children to prepare for a reading test at the end of the week.
I have only 3 words for this now. Shame. on. me.
That time every night could have been spent reading a great book, an engaging book, a book with lots of rich vocabulary and new, interesting ideas. A book with real photos, with hand-painted illustrations, with a story that moved you. Parents could have discussed the book with their children, connected the story to their own lives, talked about it at a later time. Children could have discovered authors they liked, figured out what kind of books were interesting to them and been excited to share books with their families.
These days, I believe that one the primary goals for children in kindergarten is for them to become interested in books and in reading. It’s February and most of them are. I continue to teaching reading skills like letter sounds and shapes, sound-segmentation in words, and directionality of print to children one-on-one, in small groups, and in whole group. We use writing and reading as integrated processes in everyday communication with each other. We read dozens of books every month. Some children love books more than others and they share this love of reading with each other. Some children race to the meeting area for interactive read-alouds and some prefer a one-on-one read-aloud cozied up in the recliner. Good books are part of our day every day. Some children take books home and some don’t. I spend more time reading one-on-one with the ones that don’t. Everyone has a reading buddy in Grade 4 that reads books with them once a week.
In addition to this, I’m always reflecting on what else I can do. I’m wondering how I can bridge the home-school connection better so that parents will start talking to me more. I’m wondering how to use our reading conferences to reach out to families in an authentic way. I’m wondering how to use technology in book creation with children that will deepen their learning and engage the most reluctant writers and readers. I’m wondering if asking children to organize our books into their own classroom library will help some of them self-monitor more when selecting books.
Basically, I’m trying to make learning to read a more engaging, more equitable, more joyful experience for children in kindergarten.
And those leveled books? I don’t miss them at all.
When I moved them out, there was more room and time for reading books that mattered. And more room and time for what matters most. Not level C.
Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy