Kimmie Fink

When I was in first grade, I brought a book home from school and, to my horror, my mom wrote “Too easy” on my reading log. I was devastated (didn’t she know my teacher was going to see that?), and it’s stuck with me to this day. Reading is too important—and too magical—for us to risk turning kids off of it. We should be doing everything in our power to remove any and all barriers to reading success, and that includes monitoring our own language. I hereby issue a ban on the following phrases that you should never say to kids about books and reading:

“That book is for girls.”

Repeat after me: “Books. Don’t. Have. A. Gender.” (And neither do colors, toys, or clothes, for that matter.) I don’t care if it’s a book about menstruation. It’s still not just for girls. (And frankly, the world might be a better place if people who don’t get periods knew a little more about them.) I also find it interesting (and by interesting, I mean gross) that we don’t have this problem with girls reading “boy” books. It’s 2021, and gender stereotyping has no place in our classrooms. These types of comments do nothing but limit children and their potential, and I’m not here for it.

“That book is too hard for you.”

Yikes. When did we get so obsessed with leveling reading? I understand that it’s important for students to have books at that sweet spot where they are challenged but feel successful, but these comments border on shaming. (How about we don’t make struggling readers feel worse about their reading?) I just can’t get on board with limiting students’ books choices, especially in independent reading. If it’s too hard and they’re just looking at pictures, who cares? It’s not like there’s nothing going on cognitively. Likewise, is it really hurting a reader to enjoy something that’s “too easy”? I don’t think so.

“Audiobooks don’t count.”

Nope. All reading counts. Even if it’s Kate Winslet reading you Matilda. Scratch that. Especially if it’s Kate Winslet reading you Matilda. Audiobooks are so beneficial for students. Listening to audiobooks can improve vocabulary, build background knowledge, increase comprehension… why wouldn’t we use them? Seems pretty arbitrary to me to declare it cheating just because you’re not decoding. There’s still plenty of language processing going on; you’re just removing the anxiety piece that’s keeping kids from enjoying reading. I’m all for it. And no, listening to audiobooks doesn’t get in the way of learning to read.

“When will you ever stop reading graphic novels?”

Can we please stop hating on graphic novels? Granted, I’m a huge Raina Telgemeier fangirl, but again with the “it’s not real reading” nonsense? I couldn’t care less if all a kid wants to read is illustrated narratives. They’re enticing to reluctant readers and support kids with reading challenges. We’re talking context clues, manageable format and length, accessible content and vocabulary… they’re a gold mine. And no one actually ever has to stop reading them, thanks to graphic novels for adult audiences like The Best We Could Do and March.

“You have to read THIS book.”

Don’t come for me, English teachers. I know that reading assigned texts has its time and place, especially in the upper grades. However, isn’t part of the allure of reading finding books that speak to you? I mean, when was the last time you had a student get really excited about a required reading? When we strip the choice away, we take away some of the magic. By all means, expose your students to quality literature (that’s what read aloud is for!), but when it comes to independent reading, let them call the shots. Even if Warrior Cats makes you cringe.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share in the comments.

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