When A Teacher Is Joyfully Literate

Whether we are babies learning to talk or engineers learning to build bridges, our best learning resource is always someone who has previously mastered the skill we require and who will act as a model for us to follow.

Therefore, of all the things that teachers need to know, possibly the single most important idea for any educator to hold onto tightly is this: If you want your students to read and write with passion you need to model it for them.

Never forget to let your students know that you are a reader. Let them ‘catch’ you reading and talk to them about what you read when you are not at school. Let them know that you truly value your ability to read.

Your credibility as a reader will depend on your knowledge of children’s literature. Being able to recognize quality literature will develop as you read the very books that children need to be exposed to in the classroom and beyond. Your reading research will enable you to recommend titles to your young readers with some authority; confident in your ability to match the reader with the most appropriate book to suit their learning needs and interests. The issue of discussing books with students is easily facilitated by asking a single, yet important question ‘Well, what did you think? After all, thinking about what they have read is at the heart of the literacy process.

At other times, you may be able to collaborate with your students as they work through a literature response or writing project. Your capacity to talk about books increases with your exposure to them. If your students know that you borrow and buy books, they will be more inclined to follow your lead.

To encourage your students to become risk takers as they write, what better way to support their development than to demonstrate your own willingness to write. This shows that you value the craft of writing, that you understand the challenge of the blank page, and that you have the courage to expose your ideas through writing. Your willingness to share the accounts of your life experiences with your students may make the difference for your young writers.

There was a time, in the now distant past when this type of modeling was less crucial. Lots of children saw their parents reading on a regular basis, writing letters to distant friends. These were the days before television, computer games and other techno wizardry. But today, many of our students are growing up in home environments where there are no books, no magazines, no diaries, no journals and no letter writing. You, the teacher may be the only model that a student has for developing as a literate person.

This is an awesome responsibility. Therefore to put your writing program on a realistic foundation, it is vital that you allow your students to see you, their teacher, as a reader and writer. Otherwise don’t expect great things from them. Importantly, if you don’t rate it highly enough to engage in it, they’ll quickly figure out that there’s little in it for them.

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