I walked into the classroom and was nearly tackled by J. He had a chapter book in his hands and was ready to roll. His smile told me something was behind his glances between me and the book and back again. Me. The book. Me. The book. In that moment, I knew I’d be foolish if I dared to check in with anyone else before him. His patience for me to get settled was waning as I found a spot in the corner for my pack and coat. He followed me around, all the while ignoring what he was “supposed” to be doing. He had been waiting for someone to talk to and he was banking on the possibility that I would be that person. I was more than happy to oblige.
I’d begun to learn that J. was suffering from an affliction I call “conversation starvation” and it was rearing it’s ugly head here during reading time. Conversation starvation is claiming more and more victims in our classrooms. There are many causes: screen time, alone time, lack of outdoors with friends time, and classroom schedules packed with task time. There’s less and less time to talk. Even less time to process and even less time to play. To be a kid. To learn. You can spot conversation starvation two ways: a kid who just can’t get enough of your attention and/or a kid who has that look in his eyes: you’re talking to me?
J.’s first question came rolling off his lips as I greeted him. “Is this a good book for me?” I knew where this conversation was headed. We’d talked the day before about how only he knows when a book is good for him. How every reader has to decide that, but I could help him learn some strategies readers use to figure it out. This was his number one job as a reader. No one else. His look told me that he thought I might be on the crazy train. He wanted me to tell him.
J. liked, loved, and was fascinated with mummies. The picture on the cover of his latest book was delivering the goods: a big mummy smack in the middle of two kids his age.
As I sat down with J., he was talking a mile a minute about the time he went to the Museum of Nature and Science and saw a mummy. As his story unraveled, as I’m certain he’d like to see happen to a mummy, we shared this time together. We conversed. It was hard to pull away from J. so he could get back to the work of making his decision on what to read. I felt a lump in my throat as I assured him “you’ve got this…give yourself and the book a chance.”
A chance. J. needs more than a chance. He deserves more than a chance. He needs multiple opportunities to converse every day. About books. About life. About learning.