At the beginning of the year, I gave a true/false quiz. We discussed statistics about literacy: why do struggling readers have a higher chance of becoming a teenage parent? Of going to jail? Of living in poverty? Why?
Halfway through the year, I gave a lecture. I spoke vehemently about the sacrifices black Americans in the past made to learn a skill most of my students shudder at practicing: the ability to read, and read well.
At the end of the year, I gave an assignment: what did you enjoy about our class this year? What would you like to see change next year? And without my prompting, a number of my students wrote about the Independent Reading (10-15 minutes of silent reading of a book of their choosing) we do at the beginning of each class. They lauded the fact that it made them better readers, that it increased their vocabulary and comprehension skills, that it made them enjoy the act of reading, that it helped to calm their hectic minds. THEY REQUESTED THAT, NEXT YEAR, I ALLOW MORE CLASS TIME FOR INDEPENDENT READING.
There is so, so much we didn’t accomplish this year, so much that I tried to teach and they didn’t grasp, so much that I didn’t teach well, so much that I didn’t have time to even touch. But this–an organic, sincere appreciation for reading–shows me that our time was not wasted. We didn’t do great, but we sure did all right.