Readers learn to read by reading. In some ways, it’s just that simple. No one can read a book for you. Yes, they can read a book to you, but that is different. If children don’t see themselves as readers, and don’t see the purposes for reading, why would they ever want to become readers? We have to establish routines and procedures in the reading workshop that provide access to interesting texts, time to read, and opportunities to share what has been read.
In addition, we have to stop asking readers to do things in the name of becoming a life-long reader that life-long readers would never tolerate. Asking readers to build dioramas, write book reports, fill in worksheets, or participate in round-robin reading simply needs to come to an end. We just need to finally say, ‘No.” In place of these worthless activities and outdated instructional approaches, we need to provide readers with demonstrations of the kinds of literate practices that life-long readers engage in, and provide instructional approaches that support the development of life-long readers. Doing things in the name of reading instruction that do not involve actually reading real texts seems pointless to me. It is crucial that we carefully examine those instructional practices that have no base of evidence of their effectiveness other than tradition and teacher control.
Reading should not be a competition, and books should not be seen as trophies. As Daniel Pennac suggested in Better Than Life, readers learn to read at their own pace, which may not be necessarily anybody else’s pace. Learning to read has its leaps forward and its sudden retreats, its periods of hunger and its long doldrums with no appetite. We need to recognize how individuals evolve as readers and support them on their journey so they begin to see themselves as capable readers.