Fostering a love of reading is of course a goal of all English teachers. This year I have had the wonderful privilege of teaching in a school where reading is treasured. We take time to celebrate books and stories. We carefully discuss plots. We pore over masterfully crafted sentences. And we enjoy the act of reading.
At first, this was a challenge for many of my students. They arrived on the first day eager to see friends yet less than thrilled by the mountains of new books we had accrued over the summer. These reluctant readers listened as we discussed summer reading books; some had read one while others proudly proclaimed that they had read nothing over break. But for every reluctant reader there was an adventure seeker, for books, after all, are adventures within pages.
We started off the year discussing reading expectations and how to choose a book. Every child would be expected to read for two full hours outside of school. Groans. Every child would be expected to bring a book to class every day. Groans. Every child would be required to complete three journals a week on these books. Groans. Every child would get to pick the books he or she would read. Wait. For real? Silence.
When we began watching book trailers and sharing our own experiences with books, students who had never completed a book themselves began finding books they loved. They became enchanted with the stories and authors. Students craved the monthly shipments from Scholastic when we added new titles to our shelves. And they were thoughtfully dissecting the themes, plot, characters, and writing within their journals.
Not all of my students left this year reading on grade level, but every one of them left with improvement in and a newfound love for reading.
In planning for next year, I have no doubts that I will continue the practice of book trailers and student book suggestions. This has become a perfect end of class activity that can get students out of seats and talking in front of peers. I would like to do more book tastings (think speed dating but with books; we did this one time before Christmas Break, and we all had so much fun, students left with new books, many outside their typical genre or topic). I will also, most certainly, continue to require reading journals. Not every student enjoyed journals or the prompts required, but every student benefited from them. The questions – EG: Which character would you most be friends with and why? Draw a picture of the main character’s house and explain why you included each element. What have you learned from this book? – encourage students to elevate their reading and provides an opportunity for them to apply their classroom skills to their outside reading.
While these items will remain constant within my classroom, I am unsure about the collection of pages read. As I stated before, I required each of my students to read for 2 hours outside of class. This was determined by a page per minute goal. Each student had an individual goal. Students logged their pages on a log sheet, and these log sheets were due on Wednesdays with their reading journals. In theory, this works, and it is pretty easy to tell who is reading and who is not. But in practice, many children filled in the sheet on Wednesday morning or happened to have the exact page goal every single week, despite never changing books (I didn’t know Charlotte’s Web had 1240 pages!) I haven’t determined what the best method for modification will be yet, and I plan on reading recent research to help make my decision. My current thought is to include page numbers on journal entries, making the assignment one instead of two.
What have you done to help foster a reading environment in your school? How have your students responded to reading requirements? I look forward to hearing your suggestions!