“You need a reading book with you at all times.” In the past, this was my way of ensuring kids were reading. A phrase I repeated all year. I’d show kids the library at the beginning of the year, help them find a book and then expected them to continue reading all year. No book talks, a measly classroom library, no self selected reading time, no reading conferences. It was a poor attempt on my part at fostering a love of reading in the classroom.
This year I’ve put a ton of energy into my approach. Much of what I do, I’ve learned from some awesome books: Hacking Literacy by Gerard Dawon, Book Love by Penny Kittle, Read Write Teach by Linda Rief and Reading Reasons by Kelly Gallagher. Here are a few things that have greatly improve my student’s reading.
Classroom Library: This is something that I overlooked in the past. I always counted on the school’s library instead. Having daily access to quality reading books is the first step towards fostering a love of reading. Over the summer I tried figuring out ways to build a library. I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) trying to build a library full of books worth reading. I’m extremely fortunate that the social studies teacher on my team has a library of her own with over 500 titles. Her classroom is connected to mine so the students and I have easy access.
Book Talks: In the past, I’ve talked about books before but I never truly gave a book talk. This year, I try to give one everyday. I briefly discuss the book with enthusiasm and read a selected passage aloud. I’ve skipped the read aloud a few times and it’s a night and day difference. I won’t give another book talk without selecting a passage beforehand.
I also keep a running list on my windows of the books I talk about and encourage students to write them down on their “want to read” lists. Eventually I’m going to hand over the talks to students.
Book Pass: Something I learned about from Gerard Dawson’s Hacking Literacy. I spread piles of books around the classroom, show students how to preview a book and then give them time to silently walk around and find some books worth reading. We did one of these on the first day of school and most students left the classroom with a few titles on their “want to read” lists. I try to do one every so often, especially when we get some new titles for our classroom library.
Daily Reading Time: We read for the first ten minutes of every class. In September, it was only 5 minutes. I wanted to ease them into it. Most of the time, I read as well. Some students use the time to check out new books. Starting in the second quarter, I will use this time to conference with students about their reading.
Reading Goals: Every student has a certain amount of pages to read each week. We set these goals the second week of school. This is something I learned about in Penny Kittle’s Book Love. It took some getting used to and it’s certainly not perfect but the kids seem to enjoy having a goal to meet/exceed each week. They track their pages read each day and enter it into a table that I pass around. These goals allow me to identify reluctant/struggling readers.
Reading Conferences: I’ve attempted to conference with students in the past, but it’s been difficult. Conferences are time consuming but necessary. So far, I’ve at least checked in with students to see how their enjoying a current book. It’s nice to just talk about a book with students. They also help me learn about new books worth reading. I plan on using conferences in the future for helping students with challenging books, identifying any reading problems and getting to know each student’s reading identity.
Overall, I’ve moved from saying “you need a reading book with you at all times” to showing my students a love of reading. I talk about books everyday. I remind them to abandon a book they aren’t enjoying and help them find a new one. Anytime a student finishes a book, I make sure they get a new one asap. Things are far from perfect, but perfection is not my goal. My goal is to show students a love of reading throughout the year in hopes that they will catch on and become lifelong readers.