Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reading Drought

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I have a confession. I've been in a reading drought...a serious reading drought. I can't explain it. School has been out for weeks and I haven't finished one book. Not. One. Book. I sit in shame as I watch friends participate in Book A Day challenges and book clubs about professional books and YA books. I continue to order books. I have piles waiting for me...and I don't read them. 

The shame spirals. I wonder, "What is wrong with me?!?!" I sit down to read and I can't focus on any one book for more than a few minutes and I refocus my attention on something else. I tell myself, "It's because I'm writing a lot this summer." I tell myself, "I am so busy, I'll get back to it." Excuses. All excuses. How can that happen? ME?!?! Not read? 

This weekend I forced the issue. I made myself sit down, I set the timer and I picked up a book. It's a book I promised to read, as I received an advanced copy. The timer was set, I settled in and started reading. After less than ten minutes, my mind was wandering already, but I refused to move until the timer went off. And then it hit me, "I'm not enjoying this book. I don't like it." And then I panicked, "How can I not enjoy this book?!?! Everyone else who is reading this LOVES it! What's the matter? Am I not getting it? I don't understand, why don't I like it?" When the timer rang, I'd read a few chapters and gave myself permission to feel however I wanted to feel about this book. I found it boring.

Next, I considered my students! I am a teacher. I am a reader. I LOVE to read...and this happened to me. I forgot that simple lesson about enjoying reading. I forgot to give myself permission to abandon a book. I forgot that I loved reading.


My readers that never knew the love of reading feel like this everyday when they walk into my class. They feel the dread. The boredom. The confusion. Maybe they feel the shame. The panic. The confusion. It's ok. They need permission. They need to continue their search for that book. The one that will pull them into being a reader. And after that book, the search continues. I need to remember to be patient with my students who just aren't finding any book enjoyable. Remember the shame and the fear and the confusion. TEN MINUTES. I give a book ten minutes and then I'll try again.


I'm happy to say that my reading drought is finally over. 

I'm back to reading professional books and I've almost finished a beautiful novel by Patricia MacClachlan called Kindred Souls.

I'm reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. 

I'm reading books about writing.

There are books waiting for me on my Kindle, like, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 


While I've struggled through this reading drought, I am grateful for it. These weeks and these feelings will make me a better teacher of readers. 

17 comments:

  1. Michelle, I feel like I have been in a writing drought the last few months! Sometimes I feel like in the USA there is so much pressure among great teachers to make sure they use their summer vacation to read, read for PD and then read for some more. In other countries, I think that even teachers know how to relax without feeling guilty (that what I am trying to practice this summer). I did, however, see a few books on your photos that are on my wish list! Happy reading!

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  2. Cut yourself some slack! :) You are a wonderful teacher and a great reader who maybe needs some time to veg. As I used to tell my daughters when they were little and complaining of boredom, "From boredom comes great creativity." I will bet that you just needed some mental peace to process the past year and in no time, you'll be off and running again.

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  3. I love the honesty of this slice. We ALL go through it--and those of us who are educators feel especially guilty about it, I think. I love that you brought it back to the kids and the need to be cognizant of this---and I love that you are through your reading drought!

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  4. It happens to all of us. The school year is busy and sometimes we need a rest from it all. I'm sure you've used audiobooks before, but it is such a joy to have someone read TO YOU! The beauty is that you can listen while you do other things.

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  5. I'm not surprised, but since you are such a super teacher, it fits that you applied your own dilemma to how some students must feel. Sometimes I move from book to book, and I guess that means some kind of drought, can't settle! Your focus this summer is the writing, too, so maybe you're just itching to get to that instead of reading someone else's words? I love hearing your honesty here, Michelle!

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  6. You are indeed confessional. I had a reading drought at the beginning of the summer but I was so ashamed, I didn't confess. I couldn't stop thinking about how I was going to explain this to my students. I finally gave in and read an adult book. No professional book. No middle grade. A book just for me. That did it. Drought ended. But the lesson is still there.

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  7. I spent the morning reading. It's rare that I give up an entire morning to reading, but I did it this morning and it felt wonderful. But of course, then there are those days (er, weeks) where it feels like I'm in a drought situation like yours. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. It's just how we work.

    Maybe you have to spend more time with your own writing. Maybe that's what this is all about...

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  8. These droughts are important for us, Michelle - we need time off in the summer, we really do. I'm in a drought of sorts myself, and I know that by reading less and writing less I am giving my brain what it needs: time to just enjoy the summer moments and be. Soon enough - it will be monsoon time, again.

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  9. I suspect it was not so much a "drought" as it was a time of different tasks and energies - traveling and connecting with people- working on other projects - being busy with other things. I've had LONGER droughts myself - long periods of no personal and little professional reading. You are a wonderful inspiration to me week after week - even if you have been in a drought!

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  10. Thanks for your honesty Michelle! I've been reading to Nattie, reading tweets and blog posts, reading to study but not reading for pleasure...since you bring it up, I'm in an adult pleasure reading drought. I think it's ok for you and for me...brains were built to be put to work but we can only do so much! glad your drought has ended.

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  11. I feel you. I was in your same situation until very recently (last few days) - in fact, I wrote about my reading "slump" for last week's Slice of Life. It's so hard to want to read but not to be able to, for whatever reason. I trudged through a few books and I opened one today that I can tell is going to hook me. I also really appreciated your reflection on what your experience could mean for your students, too. Happy reading!

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  12. I used to force myself to struggle through books even when I didn't like them. Now I've given myself permission to abandon them if I'm starting to feel like it's a chore to read it. You are right that we should allow our students to do the same.

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  13. I used to force myself to struggle through books even when I didn't like them. Now I've given myself permission to abandon them if I'm starting to feel like it's a chore to read it. You are right that we should allow our students to do the same.

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  14. Oh...my...gosh. I could have written this post. I have also been in a HUGE reading drought this summer and have been beating myself up over it. I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself, "What is wrong with me?" It is so comforting to know that I am not the only one...and that there is hope that it will end. Like you said, it is also important to think of those students who are going through a reading drought too. I had never thought of it that way.

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  15. I was going through this in the spring with all the wedding planning and house transition stuff that was going on. I just couldn't concentrate. Reading has picked back up for me, but it's still not at the level that's customary for me. You're right - we need to realize our students go through these phases, too. It's life! We need to be forgiving and encouraging during those times. Maybe it's time for short magazine articles, poetry, or web reading when we or they can't get through whole books. It's still reading!

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  16. How about turning the guilt into a celebration? The drought helped you to understand your students better and appreciate your reading joy more. Thank you for honestly sharing your experience.

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