It’s the beginning of a new school year. Teachers are talking up reading (and they should), assigning a specific number of minutes each evening (maybe they shouldn’t), and asking parents to sign off on said # of minutes of reading per day (a generally bad idea).
Reading is important. No doubt. In this short post, I’ll lay out a few simple steps to get students to read more. (A lot more.)
To begin, if you want your students to read more, they need access to books. You see, a literacy-rich environment that includes well-stocked classroom libraries supports balanced literacy instruction and contributes to students reading more. Lots more.Why? Because “access” is the key to reading more!
While a resource-rich school library provides resources for students and teachers, a classroom library serves one (captive) audience – your students. In fact, students with diverse classroom libraries exhibit growth in three areas. Put simply, they (1) read more widely for a variety of purposes, (2) exhibit more positive attitudes toward reading, and (3) demonstrate higher levels of reading achievement (NAEP, 2002).
More books = increased reading = more capable readers.
Among the primary findings of the Becoming a Nation of Readers report (1985) is that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Not only did the experts suggest reading aloud in the home, but they also suggested reading aloud in schools. Read alouds not only allow us to model that reading is a great way to spend time, but also expose students to more complex vocabulary than they typically hear or read.
And, that doesn’t exclude reading to older students, too. While students need to build their independent fluency and reading stamina, teachers often provide the best model of fluency. Occasionally reading more difficult text aloud provides opportunity for rich discussion and vocabulary development. And, reading young adult selections such as The Fault in Our Stars by John Green provides the background and context for meaningful discussions about current topics, too.
Independent reading sometimes gets a bad rap. Not enough time. Not enough books. Not enough accountability. Not enough evidence. And the list goes on.
We know students need to read inside and outside of school. While we can’t control time outside of school, we can control time inside school. To begin, we need to prioritize independent reading by making time for it. Allowing students to choose books they want to read. Not for points. Not for prizes. Not to answer 10-item quizzes. Simply time to read.
The next time you think about skipping independent reading, consider 100+ Reasons to Read.
Building a community of readers means more than a classroom library and allocating time for students to read. It also means providing ways for students to extend their reading by sharing their experience with others. It is important to create spaces and places for students to share books. Some ideas include: BookTalks, bulletin boards where students can vote on books (thumbs up/thumbs down), participating in an online blog such as the Nerdy Book Club, creating a class or school Twitter hashtag for book recommendations (DL the Twitter Cheat Sheet for Educators if you’re a Twitter newbie), contributing to a class website, or by having students create blogs where they share and write about their favorite (and not-so-great) book picks.
Creating a culture of reading includes teachers, too. Students need to read, and so do you. As classroom teachers and librarians, it’s important to help students find books that grab their attention and interest them. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to keep your book knowledge current. I know what you’re thinking. It may go something like this…”How can I possibly keep current on top of everything else on my plate?”
It’s not easy keeping current with new books in children’s and young adult literature; however, there are many excellent book lists, reviews, websites, and blogs to steer you in the right direction. In a previous post, I compiled several of my favorite go-to sources. There are plenty more book reviews and sites – these just happen to be some of my favorites. As you begin exploring the book lists, websites, blogs, and twitter feeds, I’m certain you’ll find several that will become your favorites! And, students will benefit from your first-hand knowledge of books.
We all want students to read and achieve at higher levels. A good, first step in getting there is to provide solid steps to support independent reading.
Begin with these. They’re simple, achievable, and will help create lifelong readers in your classroom and school.
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