When We Teach Our Kids How to Read in an Upside Down World

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“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

Maya Angelou

Has it really been just over a month that our world has been turned upside down and left me feeling like I’m walking around in a fog?

As a woman, wife, mother, teacher I am devastated by our election results. Our life and the lives of our children are in jeopardy. The other night I was listening to a food policy panel discussion that came out of Harvard University Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. The panel, which included members of the Union of Concerned Scientists, discussed transforming our national food system. As a literacy room teacher I care deeply about teaching my kids to read but I also care about what our kids eat because it’s rather hard to learn to read if you’re body isn’t fueled with a high quality fuel. So food policy, like reading, interests me. As I began listening to this panel discussion, a popular foodie, Mark Bittman formerly a NY Times columnist, got up to speak. He blew me and the audience out of the water. He was so strong, so focused, so clear. And he didn’t talk about food. Like the audience, I was ready to hear him talk about high quality foods for all. But what he, the opening panelist, spoke about was our country under a Trump presidency. He held back nothing. So here is a man, a food policy guru, on a food policy panel at one of the most prestigious universities in the world talking about how we need to unite to undo all the harm our new president elect is about to unleash on our country.

The next day I drove with a friend and coworker to see and listen to Kylene Beers and Robert Probst talk about teaching kids to improve their reading abilities through their techniques of Noticing and Noting. I’ve read their books, love them, and have found amazing success using their thinkings with my kids. That of course means that my kids have found success in understanding their reading in a much deeper level using their tricks of the trade. But when Kylene and Robert addressed the audience they didn’t initially speak of their Notice and Note books. Rather they spoke of Fake News. For two hours they spoke about the same thing Mark Bittman did, the horrifying state of our country. Like Mark, they brought their expertise into this national discussion. They spoke about how we can recognize fake or utterly biased news and how to teach our kids this skill. They chose this topic because a large part of our adult population not only can not recognize fake news but when they are shown that it is fake, they still believe it. They believe it because it supports their world view. Many believe this is how Trump won the highest office in the world. We obviously have work to do.

The list of rights and protections that are in jeopardy are overwhelming. But the work we can do with our children isn’t. Every day we teach children. We teach them to love each other and themselves. We teach them how to read, speak, and write both to learn and to communicate with others. When it comes to reading, we provide techniques to help them engage with their reading, to understand their reading, to be moved by their reading. We also provide the newest books in hopes of tickling their love of reading. We cannot lose sight of this deep power that reading gives, in particular the power of critical reading. We also cannot lose sight of the fostering a joy of reading. This is quite the balancing act, one that Kylene’s and Robert’s methods foster, encourage, and are essential in this time of “in our face” fake news.

Please, thank you readers. This post was a selfish post. One that was written to begin to help me unravel the confusions I feel in this new world we live in. May we stay strong and voice that strength. Our children are all going to need it.

Mary

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6 thoughts on “When We Teach Our Kids How to Read in an Upside Down World

  1. Your post clearly is unraveling the confusion I also feel. Thanks for sharing and framing it next to two speakers you heard. Along with teaching critical thinking and how to understand that “fake news” exists, I think we need to study the history of parody in our country and teach this to kids too. I worry that the parody is lost and instead of raising awareness for an issue, it is taken as fact and then misleads the masses. So much more work we have to do as we educate in the 21st century.

    • I so agree Sally!!! It can feel so darn overwhelming at times but I clearly believe that we can all do something by focusing on what is in front of us…20 wiggling, wonderful kids. It’s for them. We do it for them. Onward and upward, we will see the light….for them.

  2. There’s nothing selfish in using one’s writing to explore truth: In fact, it’s an important lesson and reminder to all of us about the power of writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

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