Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Reader Behind the Number
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Slice of Life: The Reader Behind the Number


“I don’t know.  I just don’t feel like a good reader.”

These words have stayed with me all summer.  I had the privilege of reading with a ten-year-old this summer.  We began reading together because his family was concerned.  He didn’t read for pleasure – ever.  His assessments did not show any concerns or areas of focus.  His teacher reported he was meeting all standards.  Yet he would not read.  His parents read to him, went to the library and continually engaged him in reading.  Yet he would not read.

After looking through all of his formal assessments, I noted something his mother shared with me.  Each year he set a reading goal at school.  These goals were saved in his portfolio.  Year after year the goal was the same.

I want to be a good reader.

What does he mean?  What is a good reader to him?

This piece of data left me wondering.  I met with him and asked what this goal meant to him.

I don’t know.  I just know I don’t feel like a good reader.

I listened.  While formal, diagnostic data said otherwise, he did not feel like a good reader.  Students need to be a part of the assessment process.  Their goals, feedback and reflections are essential to the process.  It is impossible to achieve change without the learner’s engagement.

I understand what you are saying.  I am wondering if the goal should be, I want to feel like a good reader.

He paused, looked up and asked, Is that a goal?

Yes.  If that is what you want.  We can talk about what readers do, say, feel, think and wonder.  We can meet a few times a week and discuss what it means to me and to you to be readers.  No one can tell you that you are a good reader.  I agree with you – you need to feel it yourself.

He paused again.  Do you know how to teach that?

I laughed.  I have no idea!  I feel like a reader and you want to feel like a reader.  I think together we can figure it out.  Want to give it a try? 


This story, and so many others like it, continually remind us to focus on the reader behind the number.  When we assess and analyze our data, we cannot overlook the person these numbers and letters represent.  They mean nothing if we do not understand the person.  This September we will hear this reader’s voice and remember the importance of hearing the reader’s voice in the assessment process.

Clare and Tammy

  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:35h, 13 September Reply

    So important! Did you and he meet the goal? I’ve had many students who were good readers, but didn’t think of reading as a pleasurable activity. It’s a real challenge for me to convince them otherwise!

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    Posted at 10:45h, 13 September Reply


    Thanks for this as we are in PRIME testing season! Feeling like a reader, knowing that I’m a reader, and being confident in my reading – all are different perceptions of self. Some deal with confidence – perhaps easily lost in situations. Worrisome for adults if / when like this student, he / she appears to be a solid reader . . . by the numbers.

    The numbers are only ONE part of the information!


  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 13:46h, 13 September Reply

    These words are sticking with me: “It is impossible to achieve change without the learner’s engagement.” You have challenged me today and these words will move me to think differently about assessment and listening.

  • Avatar
    Fran Haley
    Posted at 22:46h, 13 September Reply

    “This September we will hear this reader’s voice and remember the importance of hearing the reader’s voice in the assessment process.” – Your concluding line resonates loudly. We assess, we analyze, but how often do we really listen? How children view themselves as readers is vitally important, as important as getting to know them as readers. What a timely reminder.

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    Posted at 02:44h, 14 September Reply

    I’m so thankful that I teach at a school where the focus is completely on the students and not their scores and assessments. It means that teachers are actively engaged every day. Your post is a reminded that although data may be necessary, if we’re not focused on the students the data is just a number.

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 21:29h, 14 September Reply

    Such an important reminder but I want to know more. How does his story continue?

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