Pernille Ripp is an elementary school teacher who believes in independent reading and is not afraid to tell the truth to her students. That’s also partly why her blog is so popular among educators.
In a recent post, “Why Reading Sucks and It’s Ok to Talk About It,” Ms. Ripp talks about what she did recently when a student shared that reading sucked. Instead of disagreeing with the student, she affirmed the student’s (current) feelings and even opened up a brainstorming session about all the possible reasons that reading might indeed suck. Here’s her chart:
It’s a pretty good list, don’t you think? (It’s particularly interesting to me how many reasons are connected to feelings of inferiority or stigma related to reading.)
It makes me happy that Ms. Ripp didn’t cower or get too teachery. Sometimes, I’ve felt like I have to offer a counter-narrative, something like, “Oh no! You can’t mean that! Reading is great! What you just said is a big fat lie!” That’s not quite right because it doesn’t validate the student’s opinion, what the student just said.
On the other hand, I’ve also been prone to affirm the student’s response almost too energetically, as if it’s really really OK to say that reading sucks. “Yes, I am so happy that you said that! You are right on the mark, Johnny. In fact, boys and girls, if you liked reading before Johnny just spoke, you should listen to Johnny because he’s cool and you want to be, too!” This approach doesn’t work, either.
Ms. Ripp’s response — which I think was to consider the student’s feelings matter of factly (but not too excitedly), to be honest that sometimes reading does suck (especially when there’s no choice involved), and to use the remark an opportunity to move through a common reaction to reading — seems perfect.
What do you think? Please go ahead and read her post (see below) and then let me know your thoughts.