How to Be A Teacher Reading Role Model – Without Actually Reading In Front of Your Class

I was taught in college that to be a teacher reading role model, I should read infront of my students; not just read aloud, but actually sit down and read in front of them so they could see how much reading meant to me.  So when I embraced independent reading, I did just that; pulled my own book out and read diligently next to them.  It didn’t matter that I was not reading books they could actually read, but instead that they saw me in the physical act of reading.  Yet, something felt inherently wrong.  I was distracted by my own book at times, not picking up on what kids were actually doing.  I didn’t feel like I was actually teaching them anything during that time, and, most importantly; very few of my students actually saw me as a reading role model, which baffled me for a long time.  It turns out that simply seeing someone read does not make them a reading role model and so I knew I had to change my ways.

It turns out, though, that I was not the only one that was taught this method of teacher-as-reading-role-model; when the kids read, you read right alongside them.  I was reminded of this just the other day when a brand new teacher told me that when her kids were reading so was she.  I immediately thought, “What a waste of time,” but then also realized why this seems like a great idea on the surface.  After all, we  know that kids will read more when they see others reading, we know that adults as reading role models are a powerful tool, and it also legitimizes independent reading time; “See how important this is by me doing it as well…”

And yet; we need that independent reading time to meet with kids.  To confer when we can.  To do reading check-ins with as many kids as possible to further enhance our own instruction.  To build relationships and community.  To truly understand the learners that are in our care.  Not to work on our own reading.  So how do we establish ourselves as reading role models without physically reading in front of the kids?

We give it time.  The first step is to make sure there is time for independent reading.  After all, if we value something then we must give it the thing we have the least of; our time.  So every day we should find the time for self-selected choice independent reading for all of our students, no matter their needs and abilities.

We read aloud.  At all ages and whenever we can.  Kids will understand the importance of shared book experiences by actually participating in them and so we must model what it means to be a fluent read-alouder, what it means to be carried away in a text, to be emotionally connected to a piece of literature.  We do this by reading aloud stories, poems, and other pieces that move us and then invite students into the experience.

We speak reading.  My students know a lot about my reading life because I speak about it often.  I book talk books I just finished or abandoned, I talk about the latest book I cannot wait to read.  I talk about how I sneak books with me everywhere, how I trained myself to read in the car without getting sick so it would give me more reading time.  We speak books and how they matter whenever we can, not just on the days it is our teaching point.

We showcase our reading.  Outside of our classroom, I have a display of all of the books I have read so far.  My students know my reading goal and see the poster fill up as the year progresses.  My students can see that I spend time reading outside of class because they see the covers get added.  The visual representation is also a constant reminder as they enter our classroom that in here the books we read is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed of.

We procure more books.  The first thing most people notice when they enter our classroom is the sheer amount of books.  The collection and its placements speaks to the importance of reading in our community.  Having books front and center means that reading is front and center.

We sometimes read with them.  If I cannot wait to finish a book, if the classroom is particularly still, or sometimes just because it is Friday, I will sit down and read with my students.  Not because I have to but because I want to.  It is not every week, we have much too little teaching time for that, but once in a while, they might see me reading, that is if they actually look up from the pages of their own book.

Being a reading role-model is something I take quite seriously, as do many of my colleagues.  Our schools speaks books because we feel the urgency with which we lose our middle schooler’s interest in reading every year.  So every minute matters, every minute counts, and while reading in front of my students would be lovely, that is not my main job in the classroom as they read.  Speaking to them is.  How have you become a reading role model in your classroom?

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first 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.

8 thoughts on “How to Be A Teacher Reading Role Model – Without Actually Reading In Front of Your Class

  1. Wow I cannot believe how many blogs you write that directly address something I’ve also been thinking! I was also told to read alongside my students and I did that at first but questioned whether the students actually benefited from this. I now use that time to confer with students and talk about the books they are reading. I feel better about it but I still battle with whether I should confer or meet with a group and do a guided read. I end up doing a bit of both but sometimes it seems way too long since I’ve last conferred and that bothers me also.

  2. For the first time this entire year, I read for 5 minutes in the library when everyone was calm 🙂 I NEVER get to do this, and it felt like heaven on earth! Typically I am sprinting around and helping kids find books, etc, but everyone was actively engaged in reading so I spotted my moment and cuddled up in my rocking chair with a book of poetry by Nikki Grimes that I was dying to finish. This was the time for it, but if the expectation was that I did that every time I the kids were supposed to be reading I would feel panicked and unsuccessful as a librarian. I love all of your tips, and also that you “allow” us to read in front of kids when we are able to……..since that’s another thing I can talk about with kids – dying to get a chance to sit and read!

  3. Pingback: #SOL17 It Matters To Be a Teacher Who Reads – Read. Reflect. Teach.

  4. Hi Pernille, I appreciate your blog and have gotten this type of advice before, but for some reason, I can’t figure out how to conference with a student in a private, nondisruptive way. Can you share what a successful conference “looks” like? Thanks,
    Carla — I teach 8th grade English and read for the first 10 minutes of class.

  5. Pingback: How to be a Teacher Reading Role Model! | DIY with RTI

  6. A school that speaks books. I like it. I like the way you model reading for your students, the way you demonstrate to them the importance of reading to you. I would like to know how you trained yourself to be able to read in the car though. I could do with that!

  7. Pingback: Diigo Links (weekly) | Mr. Gonzalez's Classroom

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