Not All Superoheroes Wear Capes!

in , , by Stephanie, September 19, 2016

This week, I have the honor of speaking to a very important group of people: volunteer reading coaches who spend their time reading individually with children who want or need some special reading time with an adult. They selflessly give their time and attention to a child so that he or she can thrive. These volunteers are coming together for a kick-off event to start the school year program off right. I am lucky enough to have the chance to thank them for their efforts and inspire their work. 

My brief presentation is aptly titled: Not All Superheroes Wear Capes! In it, I challenge them to redefine their idea of what a hero is and reintroduce them to a important one: themselves. I introduce them to the superpowers they have as reading coaches and together, we use those powers as we think and plan for their 1:1 reading time with students. Here are some of the superpowers they possess, powers we each have within us:

A Force Field of Enthusiasm
As reading coaches, we have the power to create a safe, caring and motivating learning space for students. Our force field of positively keeps positivity and a growth-mindset of learning within our reading space and forces negativity out. We want reading to feel joyful and something easily within students reach, just as this little boy felt when he realized thepowers were in him all along

The Healing Power of Time
Research reminds us the best way to get even better at reading is…….to read, read and read some more. Our 1:1 time spent reading with children is critical to building their proficiency in reading. Time spent reading should be acknowledged and celebrated, fueling students motivation to continue. Coaches can showcase their efforts in multiple ways: keep a reading log of the books or minutes read together. Drop a marble into a jar for every story enjoyed and watch it grow. Take ‘shelfies’ (credit to Kristen Ziemke) of the books read and post them on a digital reading wall. Regardless of the format, celebrate reading!

Magnetizing Students to Books
This is one of my favorite powers. As a reading coach, we know how to choose and match students to books. This is more than matching reading levels, but matching interests and curiosities as well. Our actions surrounding the book matter and we can scaffold book reading to ensure it is successful. We might: 

Celebrate the title and author
Take time to browse the pictures
Use the language of the book to get minds ready to read
Encourage conversations and feelings
Point out puzzling words that might be new
Give students a real reason to read

By carefully scaffolding each book we give students, we ensure that each experience is a successful one, which encourages students to keep reading. 

X-Ray Vision
Well, maybe this one is my favorite after all. This superpower does what many students cannot do by themselves…see their strengths as a reader and build on them. We notice and name the strategies they use, give them ownership of their efforts and name the child as a reader. We say things like:

I noticed you looked at the pictures to help you figure out that word! 
You should be proud of yourself!
This is a puzzling word, isn’t it? What could we do to figure it out?
I heard you try to sound the word out and then try a word to see if it made sense. You are really thinking like a reader!

We see the strengths of each child and comment, reinforcing their effort and growing development. 

Predicting The Future
As much as we wish we could, we cannot spend every minute of a child’s reading life reading with them. But, we can give them the tools they need to keep reading and learning and provide teaching tools, scaffolds and visuals to encourage strategy use even when we are not around. We simply take a sticky note, write a reading strategy with picture cue on it and stick it right into the book where we think students will need the reminder most. This way, our language and helpful feedback can be there, even when we are not. These DIY Literacy tools are critical superpowers.

I end the presentation with a bit of motivation from KidPresident. In it, he challenges our idea of what a hero is and encourages each of us to be a hero and make a difference in the world. I would say that taking the time to read with a child is a heroic act, wouldn’t you?

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