Right now, reading is one of the most important things we are doing.
In the midst of family life, work, teaching, and other professional commitments, we continue to prioritize reading because of what it does for our hearts and minds, and how it stretches our thinking.
The world of education is tough right now.
In ways, it is unbearable.
The continued insistence on “using data to drive instruction” in the face of hardship, sickness, and even death, is inhumane. It was inhumane before. But now, it’s even more so.
Across the years we’ve written together, a continued focus is the power of reading—its scope, magnitude and hope. Sometimes we read just for pleasure; other times, we read to consciously deepen our thinking. Both types of reading are valid, especially in the classroom (see research from Tom Newkirk, Alfred Tatum, Gay Ivey and Peter Johnston, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, Stephen Krashen, and Richard Allington, to name a few). We believe both types of reading are essential for educators, too. And, when we lean into pleasurable reading, we remember the joy of story, of traveling alongside a character as she vanquishes a foe or learning alongside another character as they learn the power of limitless friendship.
When we return to pleasurable reading, we remember.
Travis recently experienced this feeling while reading Kate DiCamillo’s The Beatryce Prophecy. Have you read it? If not, you’d probably love it. Set in the time of kings and medieval intrigue, the book’s eponymous character, Beatryce, awakens from a feverish sleep and realizes she knows nothing of her past except her name. A prophecy that foretells of a young girl who will unseat the current king has been circulating through the land, sewing fear in the heart of the present king. He had ordered his guards to find “a girl” and imprison her, but she escaped. Are Beatryce and this young girl the same person?
Todd recently finished Tanner Olson’s most recent work, Walk A Little Slower. Though poetry is something he has just recently fell in love with, Tanner Olson’s work is such a breath of fresh air with words that seem to speak directly to your heart. It’s easy to pick up and read whenever you need a reminder, an uplifting word, a glimpse deeper into your frustrations, and so much more. You’ll definitely end up loving this book so much that you’ll purchase additional copies just to share with friends and colleagues.
What we know, deep inside, is that reading for pleasure matters. It matters for students, but it matters for us, too. We encourage you to find your books, read them, and share them. Talk about them with the teachers in your building and your fellow principals. If appropriate, go into classrooms and share what you’ve read, possibly reading aloud to the students in the room. Find time to recapture joy.
Just imagine the possibility.
Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.
Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.