"I Hate Reading"
Overcoming Shame in the Reading Classroom
- Justin M. Stygles - Wiscasset Elementary School
Elementary Reading Methods | Primary English
It can take a lifetime to eradicate a reader’s shame—or it can take one great teacher
Shame-bound readers want someone to notice them. It’s true. But then what does a teacher do to help students? Justin Stygles found fresh answers in Gershen Kaufman’s seminal research on shame and applied it to his teaching. The results proved to him—and now us—that building relationships and taking deliberate actions to alleviate shame is crucial.
With this remarkable book, Stygles shows us how to build an interpersonal bridge with students and make vulnerability okay. But make no mistake—disengaged readers need to feel competent before they fully buy in, and so the author packs the book with powerful instructional ideas. Learn to:
- Spot all the distress signals, including withdrawal, perfectionism, and compliance.
- Help students see that they are not permanently locked out of a reading life
- Use assessment instruments to note and celebrate incremental change
- Plan mini-units that develop skills in concert with engagement
- Design small group experiences that are free of levels and other shame-inducing labels
- Pump up independent reading with scaffolding and sociability
- Harness writing about reading to convince students of their uniqueness.
The shame factor is real. It’s time we meet it head on, with innovation and the best thinking from multiple research fields. I Hate Reading is the tool that does just that.
In this wonderfully honest book, Justin Stygles shows how our traditional ways of teaching reading—our use of scores, labels, interventions, judgments—are shame-inducing for many students, who retreat to avoidance behavior (“reading is boring!”) or learn to fake it. Stygles is open about how, for a time, he went along with these practices but broke free to pay attention, build relationships, ask questions, become a model, and provide the support students need. It’s a stirring journey.
"I Hate Reading": Overcoming Shame in the Reading Classroom, based on Justin Stygles’s years of teaching, narrates the author’s journey into helping students understand themselves as readers, including the why behind their choices of books, avoidance through fake reading, and how they perceive themselves as readers, thinkers, and learners. Rich in diverse ways to get to know students, how to use writing about reading to reveal each student’s feelings and reactions to books, and techniques and questions that can help students construct positive reading identities, Justin continually models the importance of being honest yet nonjudgmental while interacting with students. It’s the powerful stories about individual students and sample conferences between Justin and a student that breathe energy, passion, and deep meaning into his teaching suggestions, inviting you to return to them to reread and reexperience the honesty and pain expressed by students and how Justin responds. An essential guide for teachers in all grades, the book is compelling because it’s written with love and honesty and based on Justin’s teaching and learning journey as well as grounded in research. You’ll return to parts again and again as you strive to create a safe environment for students and give them all the time they need to shift from hating and avoiding reading to choosing to become a reader!
Justin Stygles sees his students. He acknowledges the layers students bring into a classroom, from trauma, poverty, and negative self-perceptions to the perfectionist who performs for others. He is conscious of how shame permeates the lives of his students and how they have become disconnected from reading. Through building an interpersonal bridge with students, he is able to construct a space where students do not fail but rather discover who they are through reading. Stygles’ pedagogy gives merit to the power of relationships; students not only develop a stronger sense of self but also emerge as authentic readers. ‘I Hate Reading’: Overcoming Shame in the Reading Classroom delves into why many students loathe reading and gives tangible, student-centered methods that generate intrinsic motivation in our students to treasure reading. To demonstrate his approach to students and reading, Stygles incorporates ample student examples with each strategy outlined. This book changes the way we have traditionally tried to engage students and asks educators everywhere to pause and think about the individual, the student, the reader.
'I Hate Reading’ looks closely not just at what reluctant readers do but also how they feel. When we uncover and acknowledge shame, we create the context for students to experience other feelings as readers, such as joy and pride. Thank goodness Stygles brings his years of experience as a teacher and a scholar to help us all ask a different set of questions about the student readers we support. Full of research, relatable vignettes, and concrete tools to try, this book will change the way you view the student readers who keep you up at night.
Justin Stygles’s book offers new insight into finding connections and reaching our students where they are. We all know teaching is about building relationships, but Stygles looks at the intersection of years of established reading pedagogy and everything we know about building relationships and then takes a step backward to focus on the barriers to both, which are rooted in shame. He then offers practical solutions for breaking down those barriers. My students are in high school, yet the dysfunctional behaviors Stygles attributes to shame are still apparent at that level—perhaps more so. The research in this book offers hope that it is not too late to discover and eliminate those barriers and to instill a love of reading in my most reluctant learners. This book is a thorough examination of the ways in which shame holds our students back, an honest look at the role we may play in perpetuating the shame cycle, and a guide to inform our actions going forward as we continue in our efforts to build resilient readers.
As much as we’d like all students to associate reading with joy, often students come to our classrooms with negative perceptions of themselves as readers. In his powerful self-reflection, Justin is brave enough to unpack his instructional practices that have had unintended negative consequences on his students. I’ll admit it: At some points, it was hard for me to read Justin’s words as he stirred up my own shameful memories of when I had failed my own students. But ultimately, this book pushed me to understand how to better connect to students for whom reading does not equate with joy. Full of candid conversations and classroom resources, this book helps us transform reading shame into reading pleasure.
Justin Stygles has done what no other author has done: He’s discussed students’ reading identity in relationship to the delicate subject of shame. Justin gives teachers a means to help students grow their ability and passion to read while guiding their emotional growth and development as learners. This book provides a path for teachers to take to heal students’ emotional selves and also develop their passion as readers. The tips for assessment and instruction focus also work well in classrooms where students may be learning to work together in groups and where students are becoming part of a reading community.
This book is a labor of love. Justin Stygles unequivocally gets to the heart of what our students need. This is a must-read by all educators who want to grow and refine their practice as literacy teachers. What matters the most is that all our students are successful, accepted, and embraced in all classrooms, regardless of reading levels.
Justin’s book cuts through the competing agendas within schools to remind us that our job as educators is to improve the lives of our students.
Justin’s passion for engaging his learners and his clear descriptions of how to attain solid literacy development are encouraging and refreshing. It warms my heart as an experienced school administrator that he has worked diligently to get his message out to other educators and parents on proven practices to improve literacy. My hope is for Justin to continue teaching and share further professional development on how to develop student confidence and security in their reading and writing.