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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Importance of Struggling in Reading

I just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for my book club. I must admit, the first few chapters had me struggling. The sentences were so long! Some of the words were unfamiliar. And the cadence with which the author wrote and the characters spoke was so unconventional. Ugh! I thought I would never get through it. Then, surprisingly enough, I found myself getting in the groove. As I became more familiar with the author's style and word choice, reading became easier. As I became more involved with the characters and their struggles, reading became more fun. When the last page was turned, I wished I could read more!

"Wow," I thought, "that must be just how my fourth grade students feel." It was a true ah-ha moment for me. 

Here's what I learned:
  1. I must give my students difficult reading assignments. Not so hard that they're drowning, but hard enough that they're struggling. That struggle demonstrates growth.
  2. The reading assignments need to be long enough to get them to the point of "got-it." In other words, an excerpt is just not going to do the trick. It needs to be a substantial piece.
  3. The texts I ask them to read need to be engaging. That engagement will help them get through the difficult piece.
The Common Core State Standards have raised the bar for texts read by students. At first, when I looked at the Lexile level required for students in fourth grade, I thought it was a bit too high. We heeded their advise and got rid of some of the easier novels our classes were reading. This year, my students struggled with some of the more difficult texts. But in retrospect, that struggle was worth it. My students were growing! They were becoming better readers.

Let me know what you think about the push for greater text complexity by commenting on this post.

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