Anyone who knows me knows that I’m OBSESSED with books, especially children’s books. I have THOUSANDS of books, some duplicated, and even triplicated because my library is so disorganized that I can never find what I’m looking for. When I can’t find the book I perceive I need, I buy another copy. I never think twice, I just “add to cart, checkout, and confirm purchase.” I have children’s books for almost every topic that you can dream up, and even some that you’d probably never want to consider.
With all of those books, it’s hard to imagine ever needing more, but I am compelled. Every new topic that I teach has me searching out new books to read to my classes. I have enough books to read several different books on each topic to my classes for days on end. With the exception of certain topics, I don’t believe in levelling reading to grades, or age groups. I read what I feel the class needs, or will enjoy, and explain as necessary. I am as sensitive to my audience’s needs, and complexities as possible, although I have had a couple of issues pop up over time.
I’m known as “The Storytelling Teacher.” Nearly every class I’ve ever taught has requested that I read, or tell stories. Lately however, I’m feeling rather discouraged. There are days when no matter what I do to bring a story to life, my students seem bored. I’ve tried getting them physically involved, jumping around while I read the story, repeating phrases with me, or predicting what will happen next. I’ve tried asking my students what they would do in place of the characters. I’ve tried relating my stories to their lives. Lately not even the most engaging tale will hold attention long enough to finish the book without interruptions.
Am I losing my touch? Am I not able to compete with TV, or Youtube? I doubt it. I’ve watched colleagues show video clips of people reading stories; the children are no more engaged with the screen than they are with me. In fact, they are even LESS engaged since the screen doesn’t allow them to interact with a person, or see the book in front of them.
Where does this leave me? How am I going to re-engage my students with books when we live in a world of screens and immediate gratification? I’m going to be persistent. I’m going to keep reading out loud. I’m going to keep pushing the envelope of books that challenge my students into critical thinking, and learning. Most of all, I’m going to keep introducing my students to books, and stories in hopes of captivating them and guiding them into positive lifelong relationships with books, and stories.
Just don’t tell my wallet what my plans are!