Be the Salt

Tidbits for Teachers are regular inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.


Are you bored yet?  The weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving seem to crawl by.  The only weeks that are slower are the ones between Christmas and spring break.  It is the long monotonous days that tempt you to fall into a rut.  It is also the long monotonous days that you have uninterrupted instructional time, meaning they can be some of the most productive days of the year.  The trick is to keep the daily grind interesting enough that it doesn’t bore your students to tears.  In other words, you have to be the salt, and spice things up.

  • Salt is used as seasoning, to enhance flavor.  In a classroom, you are the salt.  You are the one who brings out the natural “flavors” of your students’ individuality.  You are the one who blends them together to make a cohesive whole, using their distinct differences to create classroom magic.  Boring isn’t a part of that creation.  Being the salt requires innovation and passion that spills out and makes the whole room interesting.
  • Salt is also a preservative.  It makes things last longer.  You preserve learning and make it a part of every minute of the day.  It doesn’t have to be a formal lesson for students to learn something.  Teaching them how to get along with one another, preserves peace.  Cheering them on, preserves their confidence.  Correcting their behavior, preserves respect.  In the midst of long weeks, you have the ability to be a preservative as you go throughout the days.
  • Salt has healing properties. You see the wounds, and you know the exact amount of salt to apply to bring healing and not more pain.  You stop bullies.  You encourage effort.  You wipe away tears.  You teach emotional health.  It’s not in your plans, but you do it anyway because you know that smart kids don’t get as far as emotionally healthy ones.  Every classroom needs some salt to survive the long days in the trenches. Every teacher has the ability to be the salt.

 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:50

Risking It

michelle-yonah-33-of-33Risk.  The exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a dangerous chance. To risk is to jump into the unknown.  To risk is to be unaware of the outcome.  To risk is to measure the cost of an action and to choose it anyway.  Lives are built to take risks.  Getting out of bed is a risk.  Driving a car is a risk.  Exposure to chance of injury or loss is a daily occurrence multiplied times 10,000. There is no need to leave the comfort zone so carefully constructed.  There is no need to leave the house of my own making. Risk will find me there.

tightrope-walkerManaging risk is subconsciously done in awake moments.  Every decision can be narrowed down to risk vs. reward.  Is it worth it?  Is is peril or purpose?  Is it jeopardy or joy?  Consciousness takes a holiday and Unconsciousness has the upper hand.  The Un- means not.  Not thinking.  Not considering.  Not actively choosing.  Allowing life to ‘happen-to’ instead of choosing it. By not choosing, I am choosing. Risk exists, no matter if I manage it or not.  It is a constant. It is independent of my choices.

Physical risk is to be avoided to prevent injury.  Emotional risk is evaded for fear of heartbreak.  Spiritual risk is dodged for too many reasons to list here.  All chances taken are just that, chances…which may or may not work out.  Much fear rises up, or no fear at all.  Over thinking, or not thinking.  Intentional choice, or a roll of the dice.

risk-takerSafety takes preeminence over risk.  Why would I run into danger when I could be safe?  Why would I take a chance when I can stay where I am?  Taking no risks is far easier than putting myself out there. Vulnerability strips me naked. Transparency means I am seen. Risking exposure of my true self is daunting, because failure is an option, rejection is a possibility, injury is 100% likely.  Children do not risk-manage their lives, because they are natural risk takers. Or I say so, but the reality is they don’t know the risks, and therefore do not feel the need to control their environment. They learn how to do that once pain becomes a reality.  I have a lifetime of avoiding pain of all kinds.  It is second nature now.  Unconscious behavior shaped by protective walls and bubbles. Until, out-of-control happens without my permission.  Then all bets are off.  Risk becomes the enemy. Conscious risk management = being in control.  Safety becomes an idol.  Walls get taller, bubbles get bigger.


Unless.  Unless my eyes open to see.  I am not safe.  Control is an illusion.  Safety is a prison of sorts.  From my cell, I cannot get hurt, but I cannot be known either.  How badly do I want to be known? To belong?  To have deep connection? Bad enough to risk?  Bad enough to take a chance?  There is danger.  There is uncertainty. There is fear.  The question is, can I afford to take the risk? Will it be worth the cost? If I hedge my bets, I might come out ahead or I might not.  But isn’t that better than living in a prison cell of my own construction. Maybe a better question is…Can I afford NOT to take a risk?

Dealing with Report Cards

Pointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.


Just the thought of report cards causes the strongest parent among us to cringe.  The heart beats harder, the breathing becomes shallow, and knots in the stomach feel like writhing snakes.  Maybe that is an extreme reaction, but for parents of kids who struggle in school, it can be reality.  Somehow when our kids fail, we think we have failed as a parent in some way.  The truth is that even parents who do everything right can still have a child who struggles to learn, so let’s just take the parent guilt right off the table.  There is no point in placing blame, because that only delays moving forward.  Report cards do not measure parenting skills.  They do not measure teaching skills either.  They measure a child’s progress based on assignments given on a given day.  The point of a report card is to give information about the learner.  If a student scores poorly, it tells those working with the child what areas need more support.  That is NOT a bad thing and it does not reflect on you as a parent.  The best way to help your child is to remember some things.

  • The report card is not about you.
  • The report card is not about the teacher.
  • The report card is about your child’s learning.
  • It is not their identity.
  • There are nine weeks before report cards go out.
  • You should not be surprised at your child’s grades.
  • Read the take home papers…every week.
  • Communicate with the teacher BEFORE report cards go out to see how you can help your child.

(That’s why I wrote this blog a couple of weeks before the grading period is up.  :) )

  • Allow your child to experience their own consequences.
  • You cannot do their work for them.
  • Encourage your child that grades do not determine if he/she is valuable.
  • Sit down and work with them on improving areas of weakness.
  • Do not discount or diminish them.
  • Point out areas of strength.
  • Support those things fully.
  • Recognize that not every student is good at every subject.
  • Perfectionism stifles and crushes the spirit of a child.
  • Be okay with “good enough” on some things.
  • Remember in light of a whole life, grades on report cards are not that important.
  • Enjoy your children while they are still children.

Calm the Storm

IMG_9816I have been studying Matthew 14:22-36 lately.  It is the story of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter jumping out of the boat.  I have always loved this story, not just because of the obvious miracle of walking on water, but because I think it shows the frailty of his disciples.  I can totally relate to them.  If you don’t know the story it goes like this.

Jesus had had a long day. He had just come from his hometown where he was not received at all.  He had gotten word that his cousin and friend John had just been beheaded.  My guess is that his spirit was grieving, yet the people kept coming to hear his stories.  They followed him everywhere.  They did without sustenance in order to listen. He ministered to them until evening, when the disciples tried to send them away to get food.  Jesus would not allow it because he saw they were hungry…spiritually hungry.  Instead, he performed a miracle and multiplied the fishes and the loaves, so he could continue to feed their souls.  Like I said, it was a busy day.  I can imagine how badly he needed some “alone” time.  In order to find some, he sent the disciples on ahead in the boat.  I notice they didn’t hesitate.  Never asked how he would get across, or when he would be with them again, at least not on the record.  I bet they were beat too.


He climbed a mountain to be with God. Basically, he went camping. I so love him for that.  I get it, because it is where I find God, too.  After his hike, he soaked up the rest and the solitude. From on that mountain, he looked down on the lake that his friends were crossing.  He saw the storm coming their way, from his vantage point.  He saw their plight, and he moved to act.  Right before dawn, he walks to meet his friends.


On. The. Water.

If that were not enough, it says the wind and waves were buffeting them. In case that term is unfamiliar to you it means, the action of striking someone or something repeatedly and violently.   In other words, the storm was intense. If I were in that boat, in a storm, and I saw a man coming towards me walking on the water I would freak.  No doubt.  Trembling wouldn’t begin to describe my actions.  I’d be screaming, and considering if I could swim to shore.  These guys were cowering in fear.  Jesus tells them, “It’s me!  Don’t be afraid!”  Haha.  Right.

peter-sinkingOnly Peter sort of believes him, and says, “If it’s you Lord tell me to come to you.”  Notice the if.  Peter was willing, and you have to commend him on his belief that if it really is the Lord, he is willing to obey.  Yet, at the same time, Peter tells Jesus what to tell him. “If it is you, tell me to come to you.” He doesn’t wait for the Lord to express his desires, which are to still the storm. He takes it upon himself to decide what God would want, which he thinks is for him to come out on the water.  I can see Jesus with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he gives the command, “Come!”  It is like he says, ‘If that is what you want to do Peter, give it a try.’

Always the impulsive risk taker, Peter once again goes forward in boldness, but at least he asked permission this time.  He steps out of that boat and he walks on the water.  What an adrenaline rush that must have been…kind of like the old days version of skydiving or bungee jumping.  He goes, but in short order he begins to look at what he has gotten himself into.  Self- doubt rushes at him in the whipping of the wind.  The waves remind him of his humanity. I wonder if he thought, “I should have stayed in the boat with the other guys. What have I done?”  His act-now-think-later actions causing him to be in survival mode.  He begins to sink.  He cries out to be rescued.  Jesus pulls him out.


It is the story I have heard since I was a child.  We praise Peter for stepping out, we hope to have the kind of faith it takes to jump out of the boat. But there is this thing in my head that stops at the last part of the story where Jesus says, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  He is saying Peter had doubt.  Hmmm…he doesn’t applaud the actions of Peter, but instead gives a bit of caution.

Because of this last statement, I interpret this passage a bit differently than I have heard it preached.  I hear the voice of Peter’s friend, not with rebuking condemnation, but with a bit of mischief and maybe some sarcasm in his tone.  Peter’s doubt was different than his companions, but it was still doubt.  They were terrified from the get go.  Never considered anything but fear.  Peter, on the other hand, jumps out of the boat in what he thinks is a bold move that turns out to be not such a good idea.  His doubt was not in looking at the waves, it was in questioning the ability of Christ to come to him.  He felt it was up to him to do the work of getting to Christ, when in reality if he had waited, Jesus was coming to him.  Jesus saw the need and was coming to meet it. So the question was more like, why did you doubt ME?  Why did you question if I would come to you in the midst of the storm?  I can so relate to Peter in this.  I have jumped out of the boat.  I have made my first steps, but now the storm is buffeting me.  My eyes are on the waves that threaten to overtake me, and instead of trusting that my rescuer is coming to me, I am trying desperately to get to him.  He is asking me, ‘Do you have so little faith that I will come to you?’

You may not have resigned your job, or had your last paycheck, but I bet there is an area in your life where the boat is rocking.  It seems most of my friends lately have one thing or another going on in their lives where the storm is intense.  The waves are huge.  The wind is whipping. There is trembling.  Fear has stolen our security. The storm’s job is to reveal where our security lies…in our own abilities, in our boats, or in the climate that used to be so unchanging but now is shifting like sand.  Even the security in our faith is questionable as we franticly strive, while we are sinking. Working for reward. This favored story has taken on new meaning for me. In watching the weaknesses of the inner circle of Christ, I have seen myself.  I have recognized my need to wait on him to come to me, instead of preforming to get to him.  In reality, he is longing to still my storm, if I will stop interrupting him with my “great acts of faith,” which is all he wanted from the beginning.

Seasons Change

Tidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

IMG_9673The light has changed.  It is soft and golden.  It shimmers down through the leaves creating shafts that reach from sky to earth.  The leaves are shifting shades.  One tree at a time changes clothes. Their new fall outfits stand out upon the mountain, causing it to blush.  The clouds are dancing shadows over the surface which mirror the white puffs in the sky.  Fall has arrived with cool mornings and warm afternoons here in Georgia.  The season is changing. Did you notice?

The start of the school year is over and done.  The first grading period is winding down, but the real work is amping up. Which kids need more intensity in specific skills? Which ones need more challenge?  Who is still struggling?  How can you meet all the needs and teach all the standards?  This is the time consistency is key.  This is the time one day builds upon another.  It is the in-the-trenches-day-to-day work that builds the foundation for the rest of the year.  Between Labor Day and Christmas the days seem long, but they are some of the most productive because of the season change.  The mindset of the students shifts from summer fun to fall effort.  Parents get serious about success once that first report card goes home.

In the midst of the shift, take some time to pause and take in the beauty of the change.  Breathe deep.  In. Out.  Soak in the chill and the warmth of fall. Know that you can up the intensity of instruction without upping the stress.  It is possible, if you take the time to breathe with the changes of the season.

A Reflection


Reflection– 1. to show an image as seen in a mirror or on a shiny surface.

wrapped in flag

Glass surfaces capture the pictures, as in a mirror.  Two towers represent strength and power. Giants amid a skyline of giants.  Shiny images on a sparkling clear day.  They gleam in the morning sun.  They hum with the activity of monotonous days.  The smell of coffee brewing.  The sound of dinging elevators that take people to their cubicles. Doors being unlocked. Blinds being opened.  Eyes taking in a spectacular view before settling on the pile of files for the day on the desks.

In the streets below, traffic honks and slowly moves along like a snail.  The trains under the streets spill out a river of people into the already moving flow along the sidewalks.  Red lights switch to green.  Vendors feed people breakfast.  Newspaper stands empty of their daily goods. A reflection of daily life in a big city.  I can see it clearly in my mind’s eye.  A beautiful, mundane, gloriously normal day.


A reflection.

However, in the same mirror, others see with different eyes, an empire with arms too long.  They see abuse of power.  They see Goliath in a world of Davids. Anger blinds their eyes to see everyday people. They shake their fists and steal airplanes.  They pretend they are Luke and the buildings are the Death Star.

The first plane shatters both images, the mundane day and the empire’s power.  The glass falls and the fire rages. The normal day is ruined.  Inside the buildings, confusion is prevalent.  Fear is tangible.  It smells like jet fuel and smoke.  On the streets, shock registers on faces.  Eyes looking up see the ordinary day go up in smoke.

The second plane confirms that it is David trying to topple Goliath.  That realization sinks in, and the terror that was the goal is firmly established. The running begins.  Down stairs.  In the streets. Out the windows. Everyone moving away.  Their images are ghosts in the panes of glass they pass.


A Reflection.

A normal day ends in Washington when another plane hits its target. Fire and smoke make their statement, as people flee, running and crawling for the doors. On full alert now, there is no more doubt about what is happening, only how far will it go and how many will die on this newly christened Historic Day.

Back in New York, the Earth trembles under feet.  The building groans as it tries to stand firm.  The unthinkable happens. It topples like it was built of sticks. The Big Bad Wolf blew it down.  The people are crushed underneath.  Chaos ensues.  Terror has a death grip.


A reflection.    

In the sky, heroes are born.  Unity rises above the ashes.  Sacrifice is defined. Individuals, who love, stand together to lay it down for others on the ground.  They move together to wrestle control away from terror. They disappear in a field but remain hovering over us, reminding us what unity looks like.


A Reflection.

The Earth trembles again, and by now numb, vacant stares are no longer surprised at the horror that follows the tremble.  There is a cloud of ash and eerie silence, punctuated by the beeping of firefighters alerts.  It is all that is left of these heroes. The glass mirrors are covered up with dust and the reflections show another world, a new world. Tears make lines on ash covered mime faces, frozen in expressions of tragedy.  Lives lost.  Horror realized. Terror birthed.  History made.  World changed.


A reflection.

The smoking rubble is covered with more heroes, like ants on a hill.  Activity is frantic and feverish to save those buried, but there is almost no one to save.  The dismay on the faces, the exhaustion, as the realization hits is overwhelming.  Their eyes tell the story.


Reflection-2. to show the effect, existence, or character of something.

A nation is stunned.  The footage is replayed times a thousand.  Our souls ache.  Our mouths are silent.  We look in our collective mirror and we see pain…but there is something else there as well.  It is resilience. It is character. It is faith. Firefighters hoist the flag over the devastation to remind us of who we really are.  The remaining panes of glass reflect the image of our nation at its core. We are compassionate.  We are united.  We are hopeful. Tenderness grows. We work together. We pray together. We grieve with those who grieve.  We celebrate with those who walked out. We are gentle. We care for one another. We love deeply.


A reflection.

It has been 15 years. The unity flowered and brought with it a kindness of heart, for a season. However, the seeds of fear that were planted that day have taken root and grown.  They have propagated division and our country is now in discord like never before.  We have forgotten to look in the mirror and learn from the images there.  Crisis teaches us.  In the midst of trauma, who we really are shows up.  It is unfortunate that the unified spirit that drew us together in the days and months after 9-11 has all but disappeared.  On this day, a day of reflection, I believe our unified character remains…albeit hidden.  I pray it does not take another tragedy for the image to appear again as…

A reflection.


Let Them Fail

Pointers for Parents are regular inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.


 You read that title right.  Let your kids fail.  I know that goes against the recent trends of safety and protection at all costs, but it is in their failures that they learn resilience, perseverance, and determination.  They find out what they are bad at, and the areas in which they excel.  In past generations, kids learned the ability to bounce back and be resourceful much more easily than they do today.  I believe that is due to the fact that life, in an agrarian society, taught them these things.  Now, kids don’t have to wait for the corn to grow in order to eat it, or fix the tractor with duct tape…in most places anyway.  They don’t have to do much of what our fathers and grandfathers had to.  I believe to find out who they are, they have to have the opportunity to find out who they aren’t.  Failure teaches them that.

Repeated failure taught me, I am not a math whiz, I am not an athlete, I am not a seamstress nor a musician.  I had to do these things over and over again, always with the hope that I would finally get it, in order to realize I would not be good at everything.  My self-esteem took a hit for sure, but I have a great respect for others who are good at those things, because I know how difficult they can be.  On the other hand, I have also found some things I am good at over the years.  I can write.  I can see why kids struggle to learn.  I can show hospitality.  I have moved towards these things that seem easy for me.

Don’t we want this for our kids…to know themselves…to be able to grow and learn from mistakes?  I think we do.  There is a big difference between setting them up to fail, and allowing failure.  I am not a proponent of setting them up to fail, in fact I think they need every opportunity to succeed and to make some age appropriate choices along the way.  In those choices, however, they need to have real life consequences.  As parents, we cannot remove those risks. If we do, we are interrupting learning and the development of resiliency.  I know why we protect; it is because we remember the pains of childhood. We love greatly.  We believe it is our duty and calling to keep our kids pain free. In our minds we are good parents if we protect them well. I would agree our role is protector, but it is also encourager and teacher.  Over-protection is an obstacle to their growing up.  How to handle failure is a vital lesson to impart.  How to get back up and keep going is important to model for our kids.

I think the main thing is that it hurts us when they hurt.  We don’t want to watch them struggle.  It is one of the most difficult things to watch your kids make decisions that lead them to hard places.  Especially when you know another way that would avoid those places.  Your heart breaks, and in reality I think that the reason helicopter parenting is a thing is because we want to avoid having our own hearts broken as much as we do theirs.  In order to succeed in life, we have to let them fail at life first. So the next time your child doesn’t make the team, the grade, or get the part in the play,  instead of going after the coach or teacher, have a heart to heart with your child.  Tell some painful stories of failure from your own childhood so they will know they are not alone. That’s called showing empathy and it will create a bond. Give hugs and reinforce that your love is not based on success or failure, but on the fact that they are your child.  Help them learn to grieve loss well, and then to get back up again. It takes strength on our part, as parents not to always run to the rescue, but teaching our children about failure is better than helping them to avoid it.

Me and My Friend Bev



I had a delightful afternoon with my childhood friend Beverly yesterday.  We hadn’t seen each other face to face in many, many years. However, over the past few, we have bonded on Facebook through our shared Cancerland experiences.  It was good to finally get to hug her neck long and hard, and to catch up on life with her and those who came out to see her while she is in town.  Memory lane.  Always a fun place to visit.
On my way home I remembered a story from long ago, somewhere around 1979, at Camp Waco. (Which we pronounced Wacko.) We always went to youth camp in the summer, and Georgia, in the summer, is a very hot place, especially without air conditioning in camp cabins. It is so hot, in fact, that you never cool off.  One afternoon, a few girls were determined to try.  We took cold showers.  We dried our hair for 3 minutes at a time, which took an exceptionally long time since all of us had long and thick hair.  We stayed on our bunks under the fans for a bit to avoid moving too much.  We dowsed ourselves in baby powder to absorb the inevitable sweat that would return as soon as we stepped out the door back into the sun. It kind of worked.  We were cool for the first time in a week. Eventually, we decided to go back down to WATCH the shaving cream battle that was scheduled for the afternoon.

FullSizeRender 2

We were standing there laughing at the shenanigans, when suddenly we were grabbed and pulled into the fight against our will.  I do not remember who, I only remember grabbing hold of a tree to try to avoid being drawn in.  At some point, resisting was futile and we joined in completely, knowing that all the work to stay cool would be lost.  We hoped the hose to wash off the shaving cream would at least be cold water, but alas, it had been sitting in the sun all day, so a hot water rinse was all we got.  The moral of the story: Often in life, the unexpected happens and disrupts your plans, but you just have to go with it and find the fun despite the discomfort.

There was no way, at that time, that Bev and I could have known that in the future we would once again be pulled into another battle against our will. Now, rather than our desire to be clean and dry, our desire to live bonds us.  We have walked through Cancerland from our different regions of the country and are walking still, because once you are a citizen in this place you remain one.  Whether treatment is passive or active you will always be a cancer patient.  Bev has been in the active battle for 4 years and fought hard, with the help of 9 chemicals and radiation, for the remission she now possesses.  Treatment to retain this state is a constant in her life. Maintenance chemo they call it. Daily, weekly, and monthly. Three chemicals. I call it torture.  Yet, she has such a positive countenance that she glows. All that effort keeps her alive, and that fact makes it bearable.  Her eyes sparkle with love of life and her smile lights up the room.


She recently turned 50, and is overjoyed to have made it.  Living fully has become her priority.  That is the silver lining of Cancerland…new priorities.  She set herself a goal to backpack into 5 national parks and camp for a week, all within her 50th year.  She has two under her belt already, and her photos are stunning in their detail. The wilderness is alive, and when you go there you feel alive too, which is something we cancer survivors like to feel. The life draws you to go deeper in because it pours hope into your soul. Breathing in fresh mountain air is the way breathing was intended to be, or so it seems.  In any case, the freedom to go and to breathe, is a gift. One fully embraced by my friend, Bev.  She is an amazing woman.  She inspires me.  She may kill me for writing this, but it takes a heroic effort to do what she is doing.  The courage, the tenacity, the ability to laugh, and the peace that hovers over her are testaments to her love of life and of God.


The battleground has changed since 1979, we are no longer playing with shaving cream in the hot Georgia summer…but the moral remains the same: Often in life, the unexpected happens and disrupts your plans, but you just have to go with it and find the fun despite the discomfort.  Beverly Stripling is my survivor sister and she is kicking Cancer’s butt!

Be Still

Tidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

Labor Day.  The first holiday of the school year.  It always seems to me to take the longest to get here, doesn’t it?  There is hardly time to breathe the first month of school.  From going to school in the summer to get your room set up, to pre-planning meetings, to open house, then right into the first weeks of school, it is stress upon stress.  Opening a new school year is exhausting and that day where we rest from our labor seems to be placed at the perfect time…right before we collapse from overload.

There is a reason for the scripture “Be still and know that I am God.” When days are long and work is piling up it is important to press pause.  Labor Day is a built in pause button.  A whole weekend to rest, renew, and refresh.  Spend time as a family this weekend.  Play outside, go for a hike, or have a cook out.  Resist the urge to grade papers, or write lesson plans.  You will be a better teacher when you take the time to be still and know.

Reluctant Readers

Pointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.

IMG_9705I hear over and over again parents (and teachers too) who are frustrated with reluctant readers. I define a reluctant reader as a child who will do ANYTHING to avoid reading. In school it looks like this…a trip to the bathroom, the nurse, the pencil sharpener, sitting where they cannot be seen, unpacking the backpack as slowly as a sloth, organizing the desk or disorganizing it, playing with all manner of distractible items, talking to other students, etc.  At home, it is an outright battle with tantrums and meltdowns at the mere suggestion of reading.  Similar to homework wars, reluctant reading battles are not a pretty sight and they leave both parents and students exhausted.  Here are a few pointers on how to handle the fight.

  • Recognize that not everyone loves to read. This one was hard for me to grasp because I am the opposite of a reluctant reader.  Yet, the truth is each of us is made differently.  That said, NOT reading does not bode well for future success, so once you have accepted that every child may not be an AVID reader, you have to find a way to help them to at least learn that reading is an important skill.
  • To that end, one key in getting a reluctant reader engaged is book choice. I have had more than one student who, once they found books they liked, turned their reading habits around. Find books about their favorite topics…horses, snakes, football, motorcycles, princesses. If they like the topic they are more likely to want to read.
  • Read with them. Sounds simple, but it’s not really, because it requires we give up our biggest commodity…time.  Sitting down for 30 minutes or more is harder than you would think, especially if you have more than one child.  However, if reading doesn’t motivate them, one on one time with you might do the trick.
  • Alternate pages. You read one, they read one.  This is good for a couple of reasons… 1. Togetherness. As stated above.  Modeling.  If they see and hear you read, they are more likely to want to do it too.
  • Be sneaky. If they insist there are “no books I like” in the library, use other means.  Like magazines, or comic books, or newspapers, or how to books or cookbooks.  These are sneaky ways because they do not recognize they are actually reading when you use these types of materials. Creating a DIY craft or making a batch of cookies doesn’t seem like work, it seems like fun.  You can help, just make sure they are the ones actually doing the reading.

Try these things and remember, they are watching you. Reading is one of those things that can be caught as much as it can be taught.  If you demonstrate a love of reading by reading yourself it is more likely that they will look forward to doing it too.