Saturday, May 19, 2018

Reversed: A Memoir

"Schools struggle with snails."

These words from Lois Letchford's book, Reversed: A Memoir have lingered in my heart and have haunted my thoughts.

Reversed is a book about hope, love, and perseverance.  Yet, it is also a book about what is wrong with reading practices in many classrooms.

The book tells the story about Lois' son and his journey of becoming a reader, despite being told he was the worst child his teacher had seen in twenty years.  Or when a guidance counselor says "we cannot expect schools to teach every child."

Throughout Nicholas' journey to become a reader, Lois thinks outside the box in order to help him. She refuses to believe that her son cannot learn to read.  But she knows he doesn't learn in a traditional way, and she challenges his teacher to "change how we teach."

After trying program after program, Lois learns that programs don't work.  She learns that workbooks with phonics-based lists of words and meaningless sentences do not work.  When learning to read, listening to isolated words and hearing sounds with no context do not work, and books with no pictures to aid in comprehension do not work.

Instead, she takes the advice of her mother and decides to make learning fun.  She creates silly poems with rhymes and writes plays and draws pictures to create context.  She engages him with topics that interest him, and takes him to the library to read real books.  She begins to teach her son to read with "meaningful learning experiences" and she, herself, learns that the "key to success in reading is active engagement in books."

Reversed made me cheer when Nicholas passed his first spelling test and read books outside his Accelerated Reading levels.  It made me shake my head in disappointment when he missed the "best part" of the read-aloud because he had to go with his reading teacher for interventions and when his teacher wrote "This book is too easy for you" on his AR data sheet.  It made me smile when his mom said, "It doesn't matter -- you are reading!"

Most importantly, this book made me reflect on my teaching practices.  Am I dong enough?  Am I teaching every child?  Am I making learning fun?  Am I creating meaningful learning experiences?

This is a book that I believe anyone who teaches reading needs to read.  If not for ourselves, but for all the "Nicholases" that walk through the doors of our schools and sit in our classrooms.

We can make a difference.

We must make a difference.