I am an avid reader. I read all the time: in the car, on a boat, on the couch while my family watches a movie, in a waiting room, etc. – yup I’m one of “those” people, I carry a book with me (personal or professional) wherever I go. However, I didn’t always enjoy reading, in fact I hated reading as a child; honestly, as I look back to my childhood I can’t remember one single book I read. Reading was and is still very hard for me, I am a slow reader and in order for me to process and comprehend what I read I need it to be quiet, I need to ensure my brain is not distracted and I can only be reading one book at a time. As a reader, the only difference between my younger self and the person who sits here writing this blog is that I now have found joy in reading!
If you are waiting for me to share with you the story of “The Teacher,” you know the story I’m referencing, the story of that one teacher that opened my eyes to what a great reader I was and then suddenly all the doors of reading opened for me as a reader, well, you will sadly, be waiting an eternity. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience. It wasn’t until I was about 25 and a friend recommended that I read books by the amazingly talented author, Jodi Piccoult, that my love for reading kicked in and hasn’t stopped since!
Growing up, reading had always been something that was quantified: a number of pages to read, a certain level I had to get to, number of books to finish, arbitrary minutes to read for, etc.. Reading was about compliance, it was never just read for enjoyment and to gather information.
So as summer approaches and we reflect on a crazy 20/21 school year and begin to plan for (fingers crossed) a more consistent upcoming school year, I challenge you to purposefully foster a community of life-long readers who read for pleasure and enjoyment as well as for academic purposes!
Here are a few suggestions on how you can stop, inadvertently, stifling the joy of reading, and instead inspire your students to view reading as an enjoyable experience that can open their world to countless possibilities:
- Support students in developing a well-balanced reading diet – Just like the food we eat, we need a balance of different types of food (fruits, veggies, carbs, etc.) to help us grow students need a well-balanced reading diet. We need to encourage students to read a variety of content (magazines, novels, comic books, etc.). As we introduce different genres to students, we are able to expand their reading repertoire.
- Take a field trip – Take your students to the library or a bookstore. There is something magical about being surrounded by thousands of books. Giving students an opportunity to feel at home amongst the books can be priceless.
- Provide opportunities to socialize about their reading – Ditch your nightly reading logs but don’t ditch the nightly reading! Have students start their morning by collaborating with a reading buddy about their reading from the night before. Here is a great article from Edutopia with more information on how to implement this practice in your classroom.
- Help your students see the connections between reading and other topics – Talk to and show your students how books open their lives up outside of the 4 walls of a classroom or their town/city. By doing this you can show students (and they can experience) how characters can become their friends, how you can experience the world, and find comfort in the lives of others
- Celebrate your students as readers – Many times, students don’t see themselves as readers and find the daunting task of reading overwhelming. Celebrate every small success in your students’ journey so that they are encouraged and don’t give up on themselves!
We, at the Kane ROE, are devoted to assisting you on this journey of creating a classroom community of life-long readers. In addition to a few of the simple, but effective suggestions above we are also excited to announce that literacy icon Regie Routman (my edu-hero) will be presenting to any Kane County educator for FREE in September – Click here for more information. We will also be hosting an online book study of Regie’s most recent book, “Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellent, and Equity for All Learners” in the fall (more information to come). As a lifelong reader it has become a passion of mine to change how we teach reading, but more importantly to change how students view reading and themselves as readers. I am here to help support you in any way I can, please feel free to reach out to me at any time! In 15-20 years from now, you could be “That Teacher” the one who changed the trajectory of a child as a reader….
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning