"What Are We Reading Next?"

We finished Dracula (the Saddleback Classic version) yesterday. As they dug into the worksheets, one learner asked "What are we reading next?" "Yeah, what?" asked another. All three stared at me.

I don't know these things? Why ask me? I didn't even know we were going to read Dracula!

I mentioned to a colleague that we'd finished the books, and so I wouldn't be hoarding them anymore. She said, "So, how did you...?"

She didn't finish the question, but I knew what she was asking. How did I get adults to read aloud in public, after only 4 weeks of classes, especially when some of them couldn't read very well. I said, "I didn't."

That's true. It wasn't my idea. It came from a learner. I was talking (quietly, I thought) with one learner about whether or not she would be comfortable reading aloud with me. Another piped up and said "We should all read together."

That was an open door, but I waited two more classes before going through it. Each time I re-iterated that no one had to read with us, that I was only going to facilitate this if they wanted it, and that if people chose to read they could read as much or as little as they wanted.

Three learners maintained that, yes, they wanted to read together aloud.

Now, at that point I did do something. I thought about the range of reading levels these learners were at, and offered a book that was almost within independent reach of the lowest level. That book was Dracula, they said, yes, they were interested. Off we went.

So, to facilitate this, I had to know both where my learners were at in terms of reading level, and also the reading level of various books. I stress the latter because knowing the readability level of a wide range of books isn't necessarily a skill-set we talk about when we think about well-trained literacy facilitators. (I don't think I've seen it in any "best practices" document.)

Something else I did was seat myself to the immediate right of the learner I thought would find the text most challenging. Because we were taking turns in a clockwise direction, this meant I read directly before her. That allowed me to hand the reading over to her when an up-coming section looked easier to navigate, or, conversely, to keep reading if a difficult passage was coming up. Of course, I also meant I was able to quietly help her with the worksheets.

By the way, I also tried to throw some social studies type stuff in (pointing out Transylvania on our wall map, talking about London's status in the late 1800s). They weren't having any of it. They were all about the fiction - characters, setting, plot.

Now, I have to find some books at the same reading level - ideally with some kind of follow-up worksheets or reflection questions attached. Luckily, tomorrow is a professional development day for us and I was already planning to scoot down to the public library.

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