There are some memories about school that are crystal clear in my mind. One such memory is when I was in first grade with a friend of mine (I’ll call her Beth). The most prominent memory I have of us is when we were reading with the teacher. She told us that we would be able to choose our own books from what I now understand was the levelled reading room . We went down the hall together and when she opened the doors it was like a bright light that shone in our eyes and a choir singing in the background. We saw so many BOOKS. These were different books than you would find in the library in the primary section – there were chapter books, picture books, and long books and books with lots of different characters in them. We could choose and exchange any books we wanted to read from this special room.

In retrospect, I know there wasn’t theme music or bright lights (unless it was the sun coming through the window). The books probably would be boring by today’s standards and were likely more dusty than I remember, but it remains a defining moment for me. I am still a voracious reader. I love a good story and I aim to develop a love of reading with students.

I think there’s something to be said for building a love of reading. When I was young I read books that were fun. As I grew older, I went through all the genres; scary books, romance books, literary canons, non-fiction, etc. I discovered what I love most about reading is the way I can learn about the world and the people who live in it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that despite the fact that I learned to read in school, it isn’t the phonics worksheets that developed me into a reader. It wasn’t the focus on sounding out the alphabet and consonant blends that made me want to visit the local library and get the newest book from a favourite author. Of course, all of those things are important in the science of reading; developing decoding skills and a knowledge of words, but today there’s so much more opportunity for students to gain experience in developing these skills. Using audiobooks, thinking about text images to introduce vocabulary and ideas before engaging in print, technology, videos, and even music are all helpful in allowing so many students access to reading and language development. What I loved most, as a student, is the books coming alive. I remember my grade one teacher reading aloud to us and having us imagine (then vocalise) the sound effects for the stories she read to us. We would make knocking sounds when someone knocked on the door or big sighs when we saw a character’s emotions on their faces. This interactive way of engaging with reading helped me to understand that reading is also important because of the way we make sense of texts and ideas.

It was also the autonomy to choose books that meant something to me, ones that I thought were interesting or fascinating. I could spend time learning about myself and what I liked to read. It was the opportunity to talk about things that were interesting to me with my teachers. It was finding a voice and learning the words to express ideas and emotions and thoughts in a small reading group when I was painfully shy to raise my hand in class.

One of the main goals of the revised language curriculum is “to encourage students to experience the joy and possibility that literacy learning can ignite.” It sounds like such a beautiful learning experience. What if we made sure to create joyful literacy moments for every student? What possibilities would they dream of? What would inspire them to become readers and to love reading a good text – whether it be books or movies or an instructional manual – or to love creating one? Think about the possibilities that literacy learning blocks can bring when we consider learning to read and reading to learn a purposeful partnership. Maybe those are the core memories of joy and possibility we can cultivate for students.


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