Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Transformative Power of Reading

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place to share our Slice of Life.  Read more slices or add you own here.

Each week my students read an Article of the Week (AoW), an idea I borrowed from Kelly Gallagher.  When I choose the articles, I try to find something I think will interest them.  So, when I found an article about how reading changed a presidential candidate's life, I was a little skeptical. Boy, was I wrong.  My students responded to this article in ways I never imagined.

The article is an interview of Dr. Ben Carson by a man named Michael Hyatt.  He talks about how Dr. Carson grew up in poverty in Detroit, Michigan and was raised by a single mom.  But the one thing that turned his life around was reading.  His mother noticed that wealthy people read a lot of books and avoided watching too much television.  So she turned off the tv and made them read, which ended up changing his life.

I have five classes of 6th graders.  In one class, several students have IEP's; some need additional support with reading;  some have behavior problems, and almost all of them do not like to read.  I was overwhelmed with emotion by how they connected with this article.  I think many of them saw themselves in Dr. Carson's early life because they come from poverty and broken homes, and many are at the "bottom of the class" - right where Dr. Carson was.  By reading this article, they realized their life situations could change, but they have to make choices which will affect them in a positive way - like choosing to read and to become educated.

I would love to share all the comments by my students, but they were too numerous to write in a blog post.  Here are a few of their thoughts after reading the author's last line in the article:

"I've always believed in the transformative power of reading, especially in books.  Dr. Carson is a living example of why."

When I read this I was in a different world.  I can't believe reading did that to him!

Well, knowledge is powerful.

I bet Mrs. Eck likes that guy. 
(This one made me laugh out loud.)

Reading can be powerful.

That is a good thing to believe in.

He sets a very good example for kids, and honestly, I think that everyone should read this.

THIS is why you read.

One of my students told me a couple of weeks ago, that he started reading because of me.  He said, "Mrs. Eck, you know, you got me reading.  I didn't like reading before this year."  He now enjoys reading and sees the pleasure in it.  He knows reading has changed him and now he knows how powerful reading can be in his life.

Here are comments he wrote on his article.

Whatever your political affiliations or beliefs are, I encourage you to put those aside, read this article and share it with your students.  I think you will see just how powerful this story is.

Click here to read the entire article.


  1. Isn't it great when kids not only connect with something we teach, but tell you they're changing their lives because of you? Wow, Leigh Anne! You sure are making a difference.

    Off to click on the Carson article now. Thanks for the link.

  2. Getting that student to love reading is a great work! Wonderful.

  3. I love those margin notes that transcend the text itself ....

  4. LOVE this!!! Your students are identifying with a man running for president!!! AMAZING!! I am definitely doing this! I can't wait to read the article, thank you for sharing. YOU ROCK!!!! It reminds me of something that happened to me yesterday. I was conferencing with my students about their reading and the last question I ask is, "What can I do for you as your reading teacher?" One of my boys looked and thought and finally said, "Honestly Ms. Haseltine. You're already doing everything a good reading teacher does!" Oh I LOVE my sixth graders!!!

  5. Those margin notes show how the text came into his real life. I love that. That should be a mentor text for other children.

  6. What a difference you are making in the lives of your students. I think the teacher a student always remembers with gratitude is the one who make you understand the value of the subject matter. You are giving your students a great gift by opening the world of reading to them.

  7. This is huge work Leigh Anne! Thank you for sharing this.

  8. I've heard Gallagher talk of his article of the week, & did this a long time ago with Smithsonian articles (I had many of them, torn out & waiting). It opened the world to students just as you are, Leigh Anne. I love hearing about this really 'serendipitous' happening in your class, love seeing the examples, especially the margin notes! I wonder what would happen if you tweeted Ben Carson about it? I bet he would love hearing about your students.

  9. You never know what will touch and change a student's way of thinking. Such power in reading! Great work!

  10. Love how your students connected with the written word and this story of the power of reading! They are lucky students to have you in their corner and think of the progress they will make if you already have students saying reading has changed them this early in the year. All of us need the powerful feelings that can come when we realize we can change!

  11. What a terrific idea. I sent the link to my work e-mail and I plan to share it with my 5th grade students soon. Thanks for sharing this.