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I Am a Reader, Not a Writer


It has rained all day. You glass-half-empty types might gnash your teeth over a day of Spring Break wasted, but I have always seen rainy days as an excuse to read. I would like nothing more right now than to curl up in my rabbit-hole, channel my inner Alice, and fall into a book, but I can’t. I am supposed to be writing, writing, writing...

It seems that unleashing my reading zealotry here at Teacher Magazine has attracted some notice. After several gee-I-am-in-over-my-head meetings, I have secured a contract from Jossey-Bass Publishing, a division of Wiley, to write a book about my views towards reading, students, and putting the two together.

Hey, didn’t anyone tell these guys that I am a reader, not a writer?

Chanting the mantra “write what you know,” I can accept that I do know a thing or two about books and inspiring students to read them. But even after teaching writing for six years, I realize that I did not know much about writing before this ride began.

Writing a book is the only activity I can think of that makes grading mountains of students’ essays an appealing alternative.

As Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Vanity, I suppose, to call myself a writer when we all know that I am just a language arts and social studies teacher in the ‘burbs.

Yes, the book deal is thrilling and surreal. Thanks for reading the blog and helping make this happen. Please forgive me if I whine a little while chained to my laptop today.

Here are some things (OK, my editor has told me that the word “things” is out) I have learned. Let me share some observations--

• Even the most assertive person can have a passive voice when writing.

• You can start a sentence with a conjunction, and end one with a preposition, but “ironic” quotations marks are out.

• Reading Richard Allington, Lucy Calkins, and Janet Allen is even better the second (or third) time.

• Fast food meals and dry cleaning expenses for your family are not deductible.

• Scrutinizing your teaching practices is 30% gratifying and 70% horrifying.

• The word “student” doesn’t have enough synonyms.

• Parents who never sign a report card are all too willing to sign a release for their child to be in your book.

• A writing retreat in the woods is every writer’s fantasy for a reason.

• DEADLINE should always be written in capitals and shouted when spoken.

• Downloading Journey tunes to your iPod and surfing the ‘Net for snappy quotes about reading are not research.

And last,

• Writing a book about teaching is not as fun as doing it.

I suppose this last one, my gentle readers, is the point of the whole “thing.”


I have been reading your blog the last couple of months and really enjoyed it. I sent your link to my principal and some teachers. As a librarian, I really appreciate your honesty and wisdom on the subject of reading. I can't wait to read your book! Thanks for your insights and keep writing!

Congratulations. I really appreciate your views on developing readers. I serve in the Out-of-School-Time field, so your insights help me to make sure we are doing something different for our children and youth. I write for a living, and seem seldom to get to writing for my blog because I write for most of the work day. Good luck, please put in an advance order for me.

I think it's great you have a book in progress. I enjoy your blogging. But, now, I have some food for thought for you. If you don't enjoy writing this book...will I enjoy reading it?


Congratulations on the book. I have found that writing has dramatically changed the way I read, and I'm sure you will too.

Also,I don't think you ever realize how much you've learned and internalized until you try to share it with others through writing or teaching.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

Congratulations. I'm a big fan of your blog and I'm always recommending it to parents, to teachers, and to educators. I look forward to reading your ideas in a book; there's a huge need for it.

If you want a little support, feel free to contact me. I went through the same thing just a few years ago.

And, if you're interested, I've been trying to instill a love of books through a "Book Talk" class I teach at an alternative school in Brooklyn. It's been very successful and I'm happy to share my ideas.

Good luck.

I love your blog. I have been recomending your blog to all my colleagues who have students who are struggling with reading.(That's just about everyone I work with.) I can't wait for your book. So,hurry up and finish it. :) "If you have time to lean, you have time to write." Happy writing! Can't wait to snuggle up and read it.

Richard Allington teaches me something every time I open one of his books. Good luck as you strive to make your book a valuable resource.

I love to read your blog. Your book will be even better

Congrats and good luck with your project. As I always tell my students, the hardest word to write is the first word and the next word, but other than that, writing is easy. :)

Can you direct me to an example of a release form in order to use samples of student writings in publications?

Congrats and best of luck! You have a great blog, and I am sure your book will be equally interesting.

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Recent Comments

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