Finding the Magic

imageThere are few things I love more than a night spent singing in my choir.  Since graduating college, choir has been something that was unthinkable to give up—so for the past twenty years or so I have been making weekly trips to Pella during the fall choir season to sing with the College-Community Choir at Central College.  Every single time I leave feeling uplifted and refreshed after two hours of standing in the middle of that glorious, big choir sound.  There is something about being part of the music—not just listening to it, but participating in it that is magical.  And I learn something new each time about music, about life, about how we need music and art to make our lives beautiful.  But tonight I had another flash of insight during choir rehearsal that made me think differently about a different subject—literacy, and how I work  with children during the day in classrooms.  Our choir director, Mark, explained that it is possible to ask several people to play the same piece of music on an instrument.  One person might be an eleven-year-old.  Another might be someone who has studied their instrument for several years.  And one might be an expert musician.  They could each play the same piece of music with correct notes, correct rhythms, and all the technical skills in place.  But while the eleven-year-old may play the piece technically well, they may also play it quite deliberately, focusing on each note singularly, taking care to perform each bit accurately.  The expert musician plays the exact same piece with the same attention to technical detail, but is able to make that music into art—through phrasing, feeling, expression, and artistry.  The beginning player may have mastered the details, but the experienced player is able to make the music sing.  Isn’t that the same thing that happens with our developing readers at school? Our beginner, or less experienced readers, focus on the technical details of reading each word correctly.  They work hard to use strategies in order to be accurate.  They may indeed read a passage of text technically well.  But a more experienced reader turns their reading into art—through phrasing, feeling, expression, and emotional involvement.  That is where the magic happens for readers!  Our job—as teachers, parents, adults who know the art and magic of reading—is to somehow guide children through the knowledge of the technical side of reading and give them the gift of the artistry of reading.  Just as music and art can make our lives beautiful, so do we want our children to understand that reading can make our lives beautiful as well.  There is an artistry to reading well, but we can make it accessible to kids by showing how we find that magic in our own reading lives—and then showing them the way towards finding it in theirs.  This understanding is going to enhance the way I talk to our children at school about their books.  It’s true that many of the students I work with need to focus on the technical details of reading.  They are still learning how words work and how to make sense of what they see on the page.  But more and more I want to talk to them about feeling the magic of reading—knowing what they are working towards, and what they will gain from experiencing the art of reading a book.  I want them to have the same feeling from their books that I get when I am standing in the middle of my choir during the part of a piece that sends the sound soaring through the rafters.  I want them to know that books can make your heart sing, too.



  1. Sandy · November 4, 2015

    So true – so true Kathy!


  2. Mary · November 4, 2015

    Beautifully said…


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