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Supporting the Work of Learning to Read and Write

By Kristin Sanderson

With slight trepidation a few of us sat in the library as soon as the lunch buzzer rang today, worrying for the first two minutes if anyone was going to show up for our initial reading/writing support group.  We wondered if children were willing to put themselves in positions of vulnerability.  What if no one shared?  What if no one listened?  What if the teachers were the only ones with something to say?

Our worries were immediately put to rest as many children (over 25!) from Second through Sixth Grade filled the library.  We were floundering for extra chairs, as kids piled in, spilled open their lunch boxes and got down to the business of why we were here. Learning to read and write is hard work and for many of us, it can feel especially difficult and isolating.  

Jen Curyto began by setting the tone with a story of her own struggles with reading. After we established how this was a safe space for us to share and listen and that what we discussed stayed in the library, our conversation took flight.  Many children revealed why they came:

“I have a hard time with handwriting.”

“Reading is just awful for me but I know I am really good at other things.”  

“With the help of a tutor, I got so much better at reading.”  

“I have dyslexia and I use audio books.”

One of the most striking things about our meeting, was how well the children truly listened to one another. Throughout our time together only one person spoke at a time while the rest of us sat quietly, nodded heads in agreement, and signaled “me too.”

Many children still had their hands in the air, wanting to share, when our time came to a rapid end.  It was clear to us that the children felt supported and understood, knowing that others had similar experiences. Together we created a safe space to talk about our struggles and successes. Jen, Amy Vaccarella, and I walked away in awe, with the promise to meet again.

–Rossana Zapf, Language Arts Coordinator

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