Reading Rants: Get Those Readers Out of the Box!

Yesterday was my birthday.

A tip for new bloggers. Always begin your blog with something that will prompt your readers and followers to respond. Here, we use chronological progression and celebration. Readers will respond to this.

I haven’t run since Thursday afternoon because of a combination of sore calves and shin splints.

A tip for new bloggers. You can also use something that might draw the sympathies of your readers and followers. The Greeks called this Pathos.

Part of my birthday celebration was to go out and pick out some new running shoes. My current shoes–the ones I bought before I ever believed I would put twelve-mile runs in the log book–had about 250 miles of being pounded upon by a 250 pound man. They were finished. They could no longer do what they needed to do and my whole body–shins, calves, and back were all telling me this.

And it wasn’t comfortable yesterday morning, slipping in and out of different models of shoes specifically designed to meet my running needs. You learn all kinds of new terms like “neutral gait” and “motion stabilizing.” You learn about shoes that are designed to prohibit the inward roll of a foot that wants to roll. . .umm. . .inwardly.

And I want to say this about running shoes. In the past, because of my size and my weight, I have had to be fitted for, go through the pain of paying for, and trying to maintain any kind of dignity for, the Brooks BEAST model of shoe.

Nothing against the Brooks line of shoe. I eventually ended up choosing the Brooks DYAD 7 model, a snazzy little number with blue shoelaces that I cannot wait to hit the road in. . .


Could you line up for a sanctioned running event lined up in something called “the BEAST (and keep in mind, this is a very good shoe for those who absolutely need to wear them, but for me they are akin to wearing form-fitted Rubbermaid totes on my feet)?

And the point here is that all of these shoes were lined up according to specification and the runner’s needs. Over the course of the day, I tried on some shoes that I would have love to have had on race day, but they did not meet the needs of my feet for daily training purposes. Then, the kindly gentleman told me that I could have a weekly training shoe and one pair that were specifically set aside for race days.

It would be my choice.


Is there any better word in the language for those who speak Reading and Books? I’m going to put it in the blog again (a tip for bloggers. . .use a word more than once for emphasis. And if your readers and followers put your blog into a Wordle, than that word will come up. . .nice and big).


So, let me bring this around to the reading rant. With what started as a casual interaction between my good friend, Donalyn Miller, and me, I am thinking today. . .once again. . .about reading management programs and their costs.

We could talk about the monetary costs of reading management programs to the horror of those who never get to see the bottom line of expenditures but are asked to read with those at the back of the line when it comes to how monies are spent when it comes to reading management programs. There are no clear winners here, in my opinion.

As committees wrestle with which reading management program to adopt, it will be the readers that end up pinned upon the mat by the restrictions set forth by these programs (take a look at Read 180, and you will note a disclaimer that reads the parent company will not guarantee results if the scripted program is not followed to the letter and to the sequence).

As readers wrestle with the requirements of a reading management program, they quickly learn that their opponent has read every manual in existence and before the end of the year will have them in a “figure 4″ submission hold having them beg for mercy while waiting for summer.

As teachers wrestle with the parameters of a reading management program, many are forced to reconcile their own innate love for reading without reward against a program that honors the passing of a ten-point quiz with the reward of a box of Ho-Hos (or a can of Pringles–I don’t want to presume what is given away by way of regional or district specific preference).

As administrators wrestle with the climbing costs of reading management programs, there is a sense of embarrassment that comes of honoring that which we throw monies toward. And further embarrassment that might come of recognizing that, after a specific period of time and monies spent, no new or research-proven strategies that could be done much cheaper and to the benefit of all involved in a systemic reading approach have been suggested, let alone employed. And so, these principals and curriculum coordinators continue to cut that check each year (sometimes at six dollars per student for access fees) in the hope that some new breakthrough will come of a broken system that leaves readers, teachers, librarians, and all stakeholders waiting for the referee to notice that these programs have their students in what most within the reading community would deem an almost-illegal choke hold.

Labeling a reader with any label other than reader is what these reading management programs do. Call them what you will.

Rockets. Bluebirds. Mustangs. Cobras.


Why not? Those who are reading on level could be Beauties.

And those who are not could be Beasts.

This is how reading management programs make our readers feel. Those with an inflated sense of success from passing quizzes after reading a book will feel beautiful for the moment. And those who miss will feel almost beastly.

Still wrestling with the idea of adopting a reading management progam?

Can you not see the sales rep is hiding a folding chair behind their back and that your reader is the target?

Someone needs to cry foul. Or at least start a chant.

Or rant.


For readers.

I want to get back to my calves and shins if I may (sensing that my wrestling metaphor has run out of steam). Calves and shins are the essential pieces of one’s gait (as I think of my own–aching this weekend, I think of that Biblical story of the iron giant with the clay feet and the big bowling ball of a rock that takes it all down–but there I go again). Calves and shins should develop together, but if one is over-developed and the other has to catch up, injuries occur. Something hurts. And this weekend, both my calves and shins hurt.

My new shoes are still in their box.

These shoes should not be in their box. They should be on my feet. On the road.

Books should not be in a box. Or within a program. When this happens–as I have said before”When you put a lexile or a level on one library book, you quietly put locks on others”–readers lose out on the one element of reading that really counts.

The one element of reading that really counts (see what I did there).

The one element of reading you want to catch fire (or accelerate ((I did it again)).

CHOICE (a tip for new bloggers, using a word three times is almost Biblical. Once to say it, twice to affirm it, and three to hold the audience accountable ((“Didn’t you hear me? I said it three times.”)).

CHOICE. There. That’s four times. When someone asks what this blog was about, you tell them Mr. Hankins was talking about CHOICE.

And as calves and shins are to the successful training of a runner, then caring and sharing are for the successful nurturing of a reader.

And here is the upshot of caring and sharing in relation to calves and shins.

You cannot over-develop either one.

I’ve yet to hear someone say, “I’m exhausted from having cared too much about reading to share a new title with my readers this morning” or “Oh, my aching bookshelves; I couldn’t possibly reach out to share one more book with one of my readers.”

We have to get out of the box (programs) and move toward the investing in book lovers (people). This is what my friend, Donalyn, said this morning.

Did you miss it?

Invest in the people. Invest in the readers.

What is the vested interest in reading management programs? Ask somebody who cuts the check for these. If the answer does not begin with a nod toward those readers who must move within the program–or be checked by it–then I would call this suspect.

Wouldn’t you?


Think about it. . .and I want to leave my readers with this.

We offer student readers more choice in the lunch line than we do when we limit them with lexiles and levels.

What’s more. . .if you look at the cafeteria as a profit-generating entity within the school. . .and a lunch at my school is sold for just a little over two dollars, then the expenditures vastly different. Two dollars for lunch and six dollars for a license.

But I can verify that my kids are really eating.

Those who subscribe to and believe in reading management programs for the collective whole of your reading community (I will offer a nod to programs that meet the needs of a reader who needs extra assistance without unnecessary restraint), I have a question for you:

Can you verify–without qualification–that for the monies expended to feed the reading program machine that the kids are really reading.

It’s an expensive ruse.

A dirty trick.

It’s powder in the eyes of the readers we are called to help.

And, yet. . .we still wrestle with the idea of reading management programs.





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