Wednesday, April 11, 2018

POEM #11- "When Did You Stop Reading?"

I'm teaching seventh grade reading class this year. And it's hard, because so many of them don't like to read, at all, and I feel like I'm talking books, and showing them myself as a reader, but I'm not seeing them move and grow as readers. Today, when I was talking to one of the seventh grade girls, this poem came to me.

"When Did You Stop Reading?

First grade.
Robert Munsch was your favorite author.
Remember how we laughed over
Pigs and Moira's Birthday?
How earnestly you explained
the message in Stephanie's Ponytail?
And how you read your way through
every single dinosaur book in the library.
You were definitely a reader then.
And I wonder
When did you stop reading?

Did you quit in second grade
when teachers decided that reading
was a lot like race car driving
and that measuring words per minute
was more important
than carrying stories
in your heart basket?
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it in third grade?
That was the year we got out
the test prep packets
and asked you to peer through
a magnifying glass at a text that was rigorous
(not to be confused with ridiculous)
because that activity
was somehow more worthwhile
than sitting with your best friend
heads bent over Each Kindness
promising that you would never
be that mean to someone.
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it when you got to fifth grade
and your teacher said that graphic novels
and Diary of a Wimpy Kid
were not acceptable for someone
about to enter middle school
but she never told you
about other books you might like
and then your class went to the library
but there wasn't a librarian
and you didn't know what to choose
so you went back to your class without anything.
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it when you hit middle school
and there was one assigned book every quarter
and you didn't really care anything about
factory life on the east coast in the 1800's
or Japanese kite makers who immigrated to California
and the class crawled through that book at turtle speed
and then you got to the end of the book
and you were supposed to talk about how
the main character had changed
from the beginning to the end
but you couldn't remember the beginning
because it was a long time ago
and what you really wanted to talk about
was how your best friend, who had been your best friend since kindergarten
had changed and was not your best friend anymore
but that didn't fit into the sentence stem
and so you couldn't talk about it.
Was that when you stopped reading?

And is it too late to do Reading CPR?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018


Mary Lee said...

Ugh. Let's hope it's NEVER too late for reading CPR!!

Ramona said...

Oh, there's far too much reality in this poem for me. I've been in those classrooms and crawled through those assigned books at turtle speed and pulled out the test prep packets."
Carrying stories in your heart basket" is such a powerful image.
It's never too late! Keep talking books!

Elisabeth Ellington said...

This one hurts the heart because it's all so true. There are so many ways we destroy our students' love of reading, and I think it's happening earlier and earlier in our climate of accountability and developmentally inappropriate education. So many lines I love in this one--"stories in your heart basket" for sure.