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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.