I have watched in amazement day upon day as our 7th graders have fallen into reading. Have become still. Have been whisked away to other worlds with their books in their hands and nothing to do but read. I have listened as they have spoken of books, have handed them to each other, have recommended and requested. Have been in competition with one another to read the book first, have asked me for that one book that they just can’t seem to find.
I have watched as my 118 learners became readers. Not that they weren’t before, well some weren’t, but now; books are a part of who they are, at least in the 45 minutes we share. Readers who were dormant are now awake. Readers who were resistant are now in a fragile dance with books that entice them to keep reading. Readers who already read have found bigger challenges to keep themselves engaged. And I am so grateful. Because these kids gave me a chance and I now see the difference as we race toward the end.
So today I asked them; what do you wish every teacher would do for you as a reader and they told me, and then they told me to tell the world.
They loved all the books. Can you blame them? It is hard not to want to read when there are books calling your name everywhere you look. We speak of the need of school libraries and I wholeheartedly agree, but we also need classroom libraries filled with books to reach every reader. Books that they know can come home with them to be devoured, however long it takes.
They loved all of the book talks. And not just from me, but from each other. These 1 to 2 minute talks made all of the difference because they now knew what books they wanted to read next.
They loved their to-be-read list. Inspired so long ago now it seems by Donalyn Miller, our to-be-read list is a part of who we are. With us almost every day as we fill it with potential titles to keep us afloat in a sea of choices. It becomes the one thing I ask them to take with them as they leave so they can keep reading over the summer.
They loved the 10 minutes of reading. As one child wrote, “I think that the 10 minutes of reading at the beginning of class really helped me slowly enjoy reading throughout the year.” While I wish I could have given them more, the daily expectation of 10 minutes of reading, meant that they had to find a book that they actually wanted to read. The routine became the norm as I watched them fold into their books, their minds opened up to the new world awaiting.
They loved the challenge. Having a goal of 25 books or more meant that they knew the expectation was to read and to read more than they had before. And so they tried and many reached it, but they all (almost) read more than they had thought they could. And not just the quantity but the quality of books too. I read Teri Lesene’s Reading Ladders and it has reverberated through our classroom; how will you challenge yourself to become a better reader? Over and over they tell me what they are doing because of this conversation.
They loved the abandoning. We spoke of wild book abandoning and celebrated when we got to know ourselves better. We tell kids to only read good books but then tell them in our next breath that they must stick with a book once they have started it. Children should never feel guilty when they stop reading a book that does not work for them, they should feel fine as they search for the next book to fall in love with. So let them abandon nut have them think of why they are giving it up. That way they can use it as an opportunity to find out more about themselves as a reader.
They loved the conversations. Although I went periods of time without conferring, and it is something many requested more of, I am so thankful I came back to it because it made a difference. Having even 2 or 3 minutes every couple of weeks where a child knew all of my attention was on them and their reading identity meant that they had to start thinking about it more. And so they did, and we discussed, and together we fine-tuned what they needed, what I could do for them, but more importantly; I got to know them and through relationships books can be shared. So find the time to speak with your students about the books they are reading. Hold them accountable and let them know you care. I am so thankful for all of the moments we shared in our hushed talks.
They loved my book love. Having a teacher that loves books, who may be a crazy book lady, in fact, did make a difference. Because they knew it was okay to love something as much as that. To care about fictional characters. To cry when you get to that page. It was okay to get excited when the next installment came out, or to abandon because you knew something else was waiting for you. Being crazy about books is contagious in the best possible sense. So share your love, be excited, and get a little crazy; they need you to be that person.
They loved the choice. We can roll out the research, we can roll out the studies, but we can also just ask the kids. With choice comes investment and engagement. With choice comes a chance at creating their own reading identity. With choice comes discovery. ANd choice will lead to more reading.
And so as the final books trickle in and my library once again overflows with books waiting to be read, I realize that perhaps we were successful after all. That while every child may not LOVE reading (yet), they do not hate it more. That this year, at least, may have made a difference in their journey toward becoming an adult that reads. I can only hope.
If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books. While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher. Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.