Reading: How It Shapes All of Us

By Jessica Robinson, Grade 3 Teacher and Language Arts Co-Department Chair at The Langley School, and Parent of Three Langley Students

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” -E.B. White

Reading is not a chore, an obligation, or an assignment; it is a window into our understanding of the world.

I recently had the privilege to attend the ILA (International Literacy Association) conference in New Orleans. This conference was chalked full of prominent authors, literacy leaders, literacy coaches, administrators, teachers, and educational consultants. As I sat in session after session, I participated in activities and collaborated with educators across the world. I remember one major theme – we all want literacy to be the vehicle that allows children to connect, collaborate, and critically think about the world around them. We all want to create a culture of literacy.

As a parent, I want my children to develop a love for reading. As an educator, I not only want my students to love reading, but also want them to read widely and independently, engage in critical discussions, and collaborate around books.

The thrill of reading…

Daily reading is not just about “homework,” nor is it merely a recommendation; it is a way of life. Time with books is vital to growth! Reading has the power to reshape us. Whether nonfiction or fiction, books help us to understand the world and ourselves, and they help us to perceive things through the eyes of others. The right story at the right time can change a child’s life. Reading can be the lifeline a child needs. Books are like friends; they make us feel less alone; they can be a place to find refuge.

Every story we read (or write), and every journey books take us on, has the unique ability to transform our experiences. Reading allows us to escape to another dimension. The characters ever so nimbly draw us in – their fears, their challenges, their triumphs become our own. Without even thinking, we become the shadows of our characters, ever so subtly following around in their footsteps. There is power in this shadow. Without the reality of rejection, we can understand what it feels like. Without the dangers of adventures, we can gain strength through our character’s struggles. Without the fear of loss, we can empathize. When we know someone’s story, we can understand the motivations of others. We can build connections. The lessons we learn from books have a unique ability to seep into our lives. It is these lessons that stick with us; they forever linger. These experiences become part of us without us ever having to leave the page.

Reading allows children a momentous opportunity to connect with other people, places, and things. It challenges us to imagine, create, and think deeply. Books are not about the individual, but about the way we build our shared path toward the future. Stories bring out empathy in the reader. Remember the stories that have stood the test of time; imagine the stories that have touched your heart. What better gift could we give our children?

The Reading Workshop at The Langley School opens up this world of investigation for children. It sparks their curiosity and challenges them to explore genres and embark on new journeys. Reading invites students to understand dynamic characters, pushes them to question the actions of others, and provides opportunities to make deep and meaningful connections. The Readers Workshop welcomes students to build and make meaning!

It is through exposure, choice, and challenge that the Readers Workshop helps children unlock these gifts. It all starts with a story…

“In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of…”

Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

It is amazing how powerful simple words on a page can be. They have the power to take us back in time, to remind us of strong emotions, to connect us with others. Words and stories are like symbols; they hold greater meaning and complexity.

Imagine the journey of our youngest to our oldest readers through the lens of the Reading Workshop.

The Langley School Kindergartners are finding early successes as they develop their identities as readers. They recognize familiar stories, noticing a world of letters that combine to form words. They are infusing stories into the pictures they see! Our first-graders perceive the world through the eyes of others as they collaborate, have rich conversations, and begin to learn the power of reading with others. Jump ahead a few years, and you will see third-graders connecting with their characters, following in their footsteps, questioning the choices and decisions their characters make. Finally, before our leaders of the Lower School head off to new adventures at Langley’s Middle School, they have the opportunity to stretch their intellectual independence as they question how and why authors develop themes and gear up to develop arguments to support their perspectives.

The Reading Workshop is pushing our children to grow in leaps and bounds!

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