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Reading Can Create Lines of Communication

Reading Can Create Lines of Communication

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Published by olsonjen

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Published by: olsonjen on Jun 23, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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—Debbie Barrett—
 Debbie has taught language arts for 11 years. Before her children were born, she taught music for 3 years. Shereceived her master’s degree in middle school educationfrom the University of Georgia in 1995. When Debbie was teaching seventh- and eighth-grade language arts, sherealized she missed the camaraderie she had felt withother language arts and reading teachers when enrolled inher master’s degree program. Therefore, she began a  program for a specialist’s degree in language education andhopes to finish in the spring of 2003. The Readers as Teachers and Teachers as Readersseminar felt to Debbie as if she had finally reached thedessert course of a meal! To be able to read books shewanted to read and listen to others talk about books they had read was a treat. Her favorite reading selectionwas M
: A N 
by Ann B. Ross(2000). Debbie loved the humor of Miss Julia, the proper Southern woman who is widowed and childless and yetsuddenly is left with her deceased husband’s illegitimatechild. Debbie also has learned to appreciate the wisdomshe finds in books, such as in Joyce Rockwood’s T 
(1987) when one of the Native Americans states,
We walk a path of constant changing. With each change there is a sadness for what we have lost and a confusionabout what we have become. It happens to us again andagain, and each time we are caught by surprise and do notrecognize at first what has happened, because always we think we have already changed for the last time. But thereis no last time. (p. 76)
 Debbie could relate to this excerpt because she feltchanged by the seminar in unexpected ways.
 Reading Can Create Linesof Communication
Debbie Barrett
Dear Laura Leigh (Barrett),You may not be aware of the tremendous influence you havehad in my life, but I’m writing to thank you for sparking myinterest in reading for pleasure. It has transformed my life.Now all I want to do in my spare time is read! I look forward tosharing titles and tidbits of stories with you. Without yourknowing it, you gave me one of the best gifts ever.Love,Mom
even years ago, my daughter Laura Leigh was 12 years old.She read books constantly, especially Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I overheard conversations between Laura Leighand her grandmother, “Who do you think is the murderer in
 All Around the Town
(1992)?” “I’m reading
 Remember Me
(1994)next.” Slowly, like the warmth of a fire permeating a cold room, thedesire to read those fictional books from which my daughter justcould not tear herself away crept into my world. Laura Leighstarted enticing me, “Mom, you really need to read this one. It’s sogood!” I was hooked. Seven years later, the teacher part of mewants this moment to occur in another parent’s life.It is interesting to think about how I’ve learned from mydaughter. I remember my daughter’s reading during her stormy highschool years. It was the fine thread that kept us connected when ourworlds seemed to rotate in different universes. I mentioned this oneevening in the Readers as Teachers and Teachers as Readers seminar.The teachers asked if I ever had my seventh-grade students write
letters to their parents about what they were reading. Perhaps, theysuggested, I would find my students and their parents connectingthrough reading much as I had with my daughter. It had not occurredto me, but now it seems odd because I know from experience thatreading can be a means of keeping the lines of communication openbetween parent and child, especially in the teenage years when theadolescent can be unpredictable and questioning.I saw the possibility for adding this student-parent connectionto my class literature circles. At the beginning of the year, Ipresented the idea of literature circles in hopes that students wouldlook forward to sharing experiences and would personallyrecognize the value of the written word. My seventh gradersseemed ready for the opportunity. Enthusiastically, they asked,“Can we choose our own groups? Can we choose what books toread?” I was extremely pleased that literature circles had been sowelcomed. With equal enthusiasm, we set about choosing booksfor each group to read and organizing the students into circles of three or four students. We spent weeks reading, sharing, andconnecting with one another.Our culminating project would be writing a letter to parents(or older family members). Each student would write aboutsomething significant to him or her about the book, and the familymember would be invited to write a letter in reply to the student.Complaints were hurled forth. Questions were thrown like daggers:“Do we have to write our parents?” “What if my parent won’t writeme back? Does that affect my grade?” “Why can’t we write a friend?” “What will I say to my mom about my book?” I had no idea the response would be so negative from my students who had beensuch a cheering crowd for the literature circles. Obviously, I hadtouched a nerve, which made me wonder, Why are these studentsso anxious about writing a letter to their parents?My curiosity was intense. I waited and anticipated theseletters that would inform the parent about the child’s most favoriteand least favorite parts of the book, as well as how the student hadconnected personally with the text. Even more eagerly, Ianticipated the parents’ responses. Part of me worried, even thoughI would not and did not admit it to my students. I secretly thought

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