by Mary Howard
On 10/12/17 #G2Great was delighted to welcome Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward to our guest host seat of honor. As soon as we said our first “hello friends,” our dedicated #G2Great family of learners enthusiastically joined forces Twitter style as we collectively savored the message of their exquisite new book: From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers (Scholastic, 2017).
I first discovered From Striving to Thriving when Scholastic posted Stephanie’s video message on Facebook. This was just the inspirational impetus I needed to launch a journey of discovery that was a preparatory launching of this Twitter love fest. The icing on the cake was the opportunity afforded me to read the book pre-publication to prepare for our chat. But my excitement was multiplied ten-fold when I opened to their introduction and read words near and dear to my professional heart, “The Best Intervention is a Good Book” as a happily a recurrent theme:
Stephanie and Annie remind us why books must remain at the center of all we do – especially for our striving readers:
We’re firm believers that to fall in love with reading forever, all it takes is getting lost in one good book. When that happens, we discover that reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. An entire generation became readers inside the pages of Harry Potter books. We advocate for our strivers every day so they, too, will experience nothing short of the transformative joy and power of reading. (p. 13)
The words transformative joy and power of reading reached out and grabbed me by the heartstrings, holding me captive until I turned to the last page of the book. As I read, I was struck by the idea that I was experiencing this ‘transformative joy and power of reading’ from a professional perspective and I knew that this sense of elation was precisely what our children deserve.
With this idea in mind, I perused their messages in our #G2Great chat to explore how we can create this ‘transformative joy’ for every child. And so, in honor of their wisdom, I’d like to share five Transformative Joy ideas we must embrace as we begin to put their words into action and move our children From Striving to Thriving:
Transformative Joy #1: Make Beautiful Books Your Beating Heart
Stephanie and Annie draw a line in the proverbial sand as they take a clear stance on the powerful role books play for our striving readers. They highlight the critical goal of increasing the volume of reading within a rich environment filled with books. They ask us to engage in ‘relentless book matching’ so that we can get just right book into the hands of the children driven by the wild readerly abandon only choice can awaken. We recognize the impact of bathing children in books across the learning day and so we make room for joyful engaged independent reading because we view it is a professional priority rather than because we find extra minutes here and there. We make a time commitment to reading and expend our energy putting this into practice day after day. And we do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.
Transformative Joy #2: Strengthen Your Bridge to Deepen Understanding
Stephanie and Annie ask us to return comprehension to a place of honor as the “Super Power” that will spur readers forward. They do not trivialize the role that decoding plays as one component of the reading process but remind us that teaching comprehension under the umbrella of listening and viewing will build a foundation for decoding through understanding rather than isolated sounds. We do this from the earliest stages of learning by using daily read-aloud and beautiful picture books as words and images become our springboard to reading as a meaning-making event. We know that each component of reading has a place but we also recognize that information sound-bites are not meant to be the meaning-making sacrificial lamb. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.
Transformative Joy #3: Hold Tight to Your Professional Purpose
Stephanie and Annie ask us to approach reading in ways that will promote these experiences as an act of thinking rather than one of compliant doing. We know that this is only possible if we are willing to immerse children in books that will invite thinking and demonstrate this as we make what is invisible visible by sharing our own thinking publicly. We know that we can only celebrate “thinking-intensive’ reading opportunities by refuting the isolated tasks of thoughtless skill and drill and question interrogation so that we can opt for ample experiences that will engage children in the very reading opportunities that elicit the thinking we desire and children deserve. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.
Transformative Joy #4: Release Celebratory Talk into the Learning Air
Stephanie and Annie acknowledge the power of collaborative talk and ask us to do the same. When we keep books at the center and marry them with experiences rooted in meaning and thinking, we set the stage for lifting the level of talk to the highest heights of teacher-supported and peer engagement. We use whole class dialogue to support this talk within an instructional context and then offer ample opportunities to apply this learning. We value conferring as a scaffold to support this transition to independence followed by a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in collaborative talk so that they can begin to take ownership of this process as we step to the sidelines. We lift their voices into the celebratory air while ensuring that conversations elevate reading rather than substitute for these experiences as we offer children the very real-life opportunities we hold dear. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.
Transformative Joy #5: Reawaken a Spirit of Common Sense Assessment
Stephanie and Annie emphasize assessment as a decision-making process that will lead us from where children are at this moment to next step efforts that will help them to grow. They ask us to make a shift from viewing reading as an isolated process of repeated assessments that rob teachers and children of the time we need to achieve each of the essential goals above. We know that this requires us to become expert kidwatchers who are present in the precious day-to-day learning opportunities that meet us at every turn. We use those experiences to inform our practices and illuminate next step efforts rather than numbers on a spreadsheet that cloud our view of the child in front of us. Above all, we view daily assessments from the lens of our responsibility to ensure the success of learners rather than to label them as a ‘struggling.’ We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.
With these five points in mind, we step back and view them as one, knowing that bringing transformative joy to life in our classrooms requires a new mindset:
Within the pages of their beautiful book and generous sharing on Twitter, Stephanie and Annie show us what is possible. Driven by a deep commitment to our striving learners, they remind us that it is our professional responsibility to support a journey from striving to thriving. They celebrate the potential impact when we make room in every day for the practices that will enrich the learning lives of children and inspire us to refute those things that will not. I believe that their wisdom could at long last inspire a shift in the intervention mentality that has plagued us. This much-needed refocusing could truly make from striving to thriving our new professional reality. And we are grateful to follow their lead!
In closing, I’d like to thank Stephanie and Annie for their wisdom at a time when interventions have been reduced to joyless one-size-fits-all practices that minimize our efforts and blind us to the voluminous enthusiastic reading of can’t-put-down books. We are ready to joyfully launch a renewed intervention mindset that will offer our striving readers the very experiences we so willing offer our most proficient readers so that they can achieve their newfound status as thriving readers and experience the transformative joy they deserve. In their words,
And that my friends, is a professional imperative!
More Twitter Messages from Stephanie and Annie
Stephanie Harvey discusses what striving readers need https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfQDjr2zUV8
From Striving to Thriving https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/books/from-striving-to-thriving-9781338051964.html