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My Students and Reading

This blog is written by NCTE student member Evelyn Begody. 

Several high school students are pictured on campus, sitting on a concrete planter as they collaborate on a project. Girls and boys are alternating, some looking at digital tablets, others looking down at papers or laptops. Only two of the students appear to be talking.

September 23 is Native American Day in three states. While these states commemorate it on that day, every day is Native American Day for me since I teach on the Navajo Nation. I teach mainly sophomores: sophomores who don’t see the importance of reading, sophomores who sometimes sleep in class, sophomores who come to school without a backpack, sophomores who bring their phones but forget about paper and pens, sophomores who have one or both parent(s) absent, sophomores who read five or more years below their grade level.

As I write this, I have Yanabah Jaques, a junior at Brown University, presenting to my students on how to be a successful student, not just for college, but also in high school. She lists a few alarming reading facts, but the one that stands out is that by the age of three, the disparity of 30 million words exists between the most affluent and the poorest children. Another is the correlation between low-level readers and the incarceration rate. By the time, Yanabah finishes her presentation, she has shown that reading is essential to communication and socioeconomic success.

Yanabah is my former student and an alumna of Window Rock High School. Armed with these facts, I have emphasized reading to such a degree that I even get tired of citing the stats. Despite that, I know I create a difference. I have seen students increase their reading levels and noticed an increase in motivation and grades. And, I hope that this growth will open opportunity for post-secondary decisions.

Evelyn Begody, in her 22nd year of teaching high school English on the Navajo Nation, devotes much time to reading and writing. She loves hiking, Greek salads, her four children, her husband, and reading—but not in that order, of course.

For other resources, please visit the following:

Gorlewski, Julie and David Gorlewski. EJ September Sneak Preview: Native Feminist Texts.” Literacy & NCTE, 8 Sept. 2016

Gorlewski, Julie and David Gorlewski, editors. English Journal, Vol. 106, No. 1, September 2016