For most teachers, teaching is a passion. I’m a teacher, I love teaching and I especially love teaching literacy.

One of the most fascinating things I find about teaching is helping a student to develop their own personal ideas and beliefs about the world. No matter how old (4 or 15) reading gives students the freedom to develop their own ideas, opinions, and beliefs.

Getting students motivated and involved in reading is not always the easiest. In my experience all students enjoy being read to, but when it comes to working on their own they each have their own personal struggles. Reading is a developmental experience and is different for everyone. It is important in my classroom that I make students responsible for their own reading, and I stay honest with them.

The first step to engaging students in reading is listening to their concerns. My first question is always, “what are you doing as a reader?” When a child feels like they have ownership over what they do and choice they are motivated to keep working. I give students choice over what they read, but provide them open criticism with their reading choices.

One example, if I notice a student keeps reading in the same genre I might encourage them to read in a different genre. I might ask them what other genres they might be interested in. When it comes to improving a student’s reading it’s important to focus on one small reading goal at a time. In my classroom, I have independent reading time where everyone is focused on becoming better readers, and working on their individual goals. I suggest that families can set up these times in their homes. Instead of watching TV, everyone can read their own books; families can talk about their goals for becoming better readers themselves. Families can then discuss their ideas and thoughts.

There are so many opportunities to integrate literacy into children’s lives, in a variety of ways. The new common core state standards focus around four main topics narrative, informational, persuasive, and response to literature. Children now more than ever are being asked to read, pull meaning from it, and find a way to apply this meaning to their own lives.

This type of thinking can start at a very young age, if you as parents start allowing your children the opportunity to be responsible and make critical thinking choices. Some may say, “yeah this sounds great but, how?” Well through questioning your child’s actions, thoughts, or choices. Make them explain to you their thinking, and if they can’t find the words support them until they can.

Hold your child responsible and do not given them answers. Let them discover them on their own. Allow children to feel disequilibrium, the feeling of uncertainty. In my class I never say “you’re right” I say, “Well that’s one way to look at it!”

Teaching this way is not easy and is challenging for myself. It would be much easier to give them the answer. However, in the past few years, I have noticed a significant change in children when teaching using this method. They become independent, critical thinkers who learn from each other. I follow the motto, “I want to teach children how to think, not what to think and always think for themselves!”

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