Slice of Life Challenge day 18 #sol17

Sometimes a child’s choice would not be our choice, but it is still his to make…

Title: “Choice”

About a week ago, Zach came bursting into my  office.  “Mr. Ball, I need a book!” he bellowed, his backpack slung over his shoulder.

I looked up from the paperwork I had been studying before this boy had stormed my office.  There was Zach with this head turned sideways, scanning the books on the shelf nearest the door to my office.  The thought crossed my mind to tell Zach I was busy, to tell him to come back perhaps after school.

But no way was I going to do that.

Here was a kid who needed a book!  I find matching a kid to a book to be both one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences in my profession, although I will admit it rarely goes the way I think it will go.  That day with Zach was no exception.

“Well, what are you ready for, Zach?” I asked him.  “You finished the Michael Vey series, right?”  This is how I had met Zach.  He was not my student, but had come to me upon the recommendation of his seventh grade English Language Arts teacher to pick up the most recent Richard Paul Evans installment of the popular character, Michael Vey.  I remembered he had read and returned the book within two weeks, lamenting the fact that no book seven existed yet.

I stood up and circled my desk so that I could approach a different book shelf.  Now, the book selection in my office is quite limited, so I worried that I might not be able to help Zach.  I began to scan the mental files in my brain. Hmm…What to recommend?

Suddenly, I heard Zach’s voice. “I’ll just read this one.”  He held up a book from the shelf he had been searching.


Now, I am not familiar with this book.  It was one of the many books I inherited when I moved into this office four years ago.  With that being the case, a few thoughts crossed my mind.  Thought #1:  I should not let this kid have this book.  Thought #2:  If I do allow Zach to take this book, at least one of his teachers will want to let the air out of my tires to seek revenge.  Thought #3:  I should make him pick something else.

But a core belief inside me took over at that point, a belief that choice really matters when it comes to growing and nurturing young readers.  Perhaps this book wouldn’t have been my choice for Zach, but it was his choice. So he signed it out and was out the door.  “Thanks!” he uttered over his shoulder as he ambled into the hallway.

That was a week ago.  Then yesterday, Zach, once again, shuffled into my office with his backpack and returned the book to my hands.  “It was really good,” he reported. “Thanks!”

“You’re welcome.”


Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 29 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a former co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting writing teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops,

22 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge day 18 #sol17”

  1. So true! I have a student who has been reading and rereading the beginning reader, phonetic chapter book, Lots of Hats for several weeks. It’s now readable and enjoyable and comfortable. Some day soon, she’ll be ready to move onto something will a little more meat in it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Ehrenworth recently did a parent workshop in our district. She said that it’s our job to get fascinating books into kids hands, but what kids find fascinating may not be what we find fascinating. Choice is so important. I hope your tires survive this choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The first thing that struck me was that so often we have that knee-jerk thought to say “No” or “Not now” when the timing isn’t right for us. But who are we here for? The kids, so now is just fine. The second thing is that, while I don’t know this book either, I know both of us would have been equally happy with him returning it and saying, “It was OK, but not great.” Thinking critically is a powerful thing, and it’s fun when you start recognizing what you like, don’t like, and why. Thanks for this wonderful slice.


  4. You gotta love middle schoolers to teach them. I taught 7th grade for three years; they are nothing but bigger children. I love how you crafted this narrative – your word choice was so fitting along with your interspersed thoughts. Specifically, I appreciated, “bellowed, stormed, and ambled.” Of course, choice is key. Thanks for continuing to inspire our kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would have hated it if my teachers had dictated my books for my free time… I hated it when they dictated the class literature! I had so much I wanted to read… and it seemed so little time! Glad you overrode your feelings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a librarian, I applaud you for giving him that book! Fabulous! One of my favorite things in the world to do is reader’s advisory–and I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to spend time helping make that match for a kiddo.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have given up the fight about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I’ve realized that even when my students choose this book series, they move quickly through it and on to something else. And like you, I think choice is important. I also enjoyed the idea of this kid just bursting into your office. You seem like the type of teacher who accepts kids as kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Here was a kid who needed a book! I find matching a kid to a book to be both one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences in my profession” DITTO. It’s by far my favorite thing to do but also the most serious challenge ever. Being away from doing that professionally for two years now, I miss that part probably the most. That aside, I agree with your thought process here. I thought the same things as you in that same order. Excellent slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. First this: I find matching a kid to a book to be both one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences in my profession.
    Then this: I will admit it rarely goes the way I think it will go.
    All I can say is “YUP”.

    Liked by 1 person

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