Surprise in a Reading Conference

Yesterday during my routine reading conferences with students, I had a great conversation with one student, Mai*,  not only about her book, but about her life as well. First, we talked about the book she was reading, Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (one of my favorites), and she said that she liked it because it showed what it was really like to be a 7th grader, and how you change so much at that age. I asked her to give me some text evidence, and she brought up how one of the characters is suddenly obsessed with boys. This caused a fit of giggles from the girls at her table, as all of them looked at another girl who constantly talks about boys and romance.

What really struck me about this reading conference, though, was when I asked her to tell me a reading goal. She surprised me by saying that she wanted to learn how to read in Vietnamese, which is her parents’ first language. Mai had recently spent a month in Vietnam, and realized that she wanted to be able to read the many classic children’s books that her family has there. I also learned that her mother speaks mostly Vietnamese at home, so Mai knows how to speak and understand the language – she just can’t really read it.

As she continued talking, she told me that her mother was planning on having the whole family take Vietnamese classes on Sundays, and that she was excited to get started. A lot of students and friends I’ve known often dislike spending part of their weekends learning the language of their parents, but I was happy to see that she was looking forward to it.

I am inspired by this student’s desire to learn, and make herself more knowledgeable about something that will help her as she grows up. I know it is cliche, but my students never cease to amaze me. They are always leading more complicated lives than I often realize, and I relish in getting to share some of their diverse experiences with them.


*not her real name


2 thoughts on “Surprise in a Reading Conference

  1. It is wonderful when students can keep their home language as they are schooled in English. I am saddened by the gap it makes when students lose their parent language. It creates a divide.
    Thank you for conducting reading conferences. So valuable for students and instructive for us.


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