But how do you know they are reading? How do you know they read at home? How do you know that what they are reading is worth their time? Is challenging them? Is what they should be reading?
These are the questions I am asked a lot. These are also the questions I juggle myself. Once those kids leave our classrooms, how do we know what they do at home?
We are so focused on data. On proof. And I get it; without proof of further reading, how will they ever get better? And yet, the things we implement often lead to less reading, to less enjoyment, to future damage. So why spend our time now, thinking of ways to hold kids accountable for their outside reading when we don’t even know the kids yet? Why search for the one perfect way when choice and figuring out how we want to share our reading is vital for our reading identity development.
I used to use reading logs, after all, that parent signature certainly meant compliance. Then I had kids of my own and I realized that I pretty much sign whatever it is that is sent home from school. I also realized that the minute my kids had a log attached to it, the last thing they wanted to do was reading. I gave up the reading logs to the cheers of my students who told me that they had been instrumental in wanting to read less.
So then I turned to reader’s notebooks. Forced reflection after every read. Five minutes of writing about your thoughts, your feelings, or one of the questions I had posed. Five minutes to digest your reading, in silence. Five minutes every day, until I heard the groans of my students. Until they begged me to please stop. So I stopped. And I wondered, how then do I foster accountability in their outside reading lives when I know how important it is for kids to read?
And then I realized, that I can’t. That there is truly little I can do the moment they leave room 235D. That instead of worrying about how I will keep them accountable when they are not with me, that what I needed to focus on was what they were doing with me. That the biggest component of our reading instruction has to be to foster the love or lessen the dislike of reading so that it might inspire further reading once they left the classroom.
Because as adults, we figure out how we want to reflect on our reading. We read our books and then we make a choice; what do I want to do now? The book itself seems to guide our decisions; there are some books that I have to write about because they change me in such a fundamental way. There are some books I have to hand to others because I want them to have the same experience as I just did. There are some books that I cannot wait to book talk, knowing that they will inspire more kids to read. There are some I share on Instagram hoping that others will place them in their classroom. And then are some that I read and I put aside and then do nothing with.
Sometimes when we read we do nothing. That doesn’t mean we didn’t read, it just means that we had an experience we didn’t want to share. Why not offer that as an option to our students too?
So I ask my students now to explore. I give them time to discuss, more time is needed for sure, to book talk, to recommend. Sometimes we write. This year we will look at Flipgrid (I think) and use Instagram, and any other things that my students think may work for them. And there will also be times where we do nothing. Where the experience with the book was enough. And for some kids their reading will incerase at home because they finally fid some books to love, while for others it will be a whole year goal. Some will fight me on it, they do every year, and others will just need gentle nudging.
So perhaps our discussion should not be how do we hold kids accountable for their outside reading, but instead how do we create passionate reading environments in our schools? How do we foster a need to read? An interest that will carry through their days?
I am in this quest to create readers for a lifetime, not just for this year, and so I don’t need the false accountability that will end the moment they leave on the final day of school. I do not need tools like AR quizzes, reading logs, or forced nightly reflections that they do not change their habits long-term. I do not need to create more hoops for my students to jump through when it comes to reading; I need them to want to read.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. 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.