For the past five months, my students and I have been working on a new reading program that encourages the joy and celebration of reading. I can now give some of the results from my reading endeavour. I am proud of my students, and feel overall that my plans have been successful in that I have created a reading culture in the classroom. Students talk about their books with me, and we have been loaning books to each other and sharing recommendations. I have more reluctant readers choosing to read in class, and choosing books that are outside the genre they are usually attracted to or are at a higher reading level. My two classes met their reading goal of 200 books in January, and are currently at 729 books at last count. Next year I will be sure to continue the strategies that have worked, including:
- Allow kids to read what they are interested in. Don’t limit a book or story simply because it is a graphic novel, or you feel the book has no solid reading value. I had a student who started the year reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I, Funny, and is now working his way through the Newbery Honor book Al Capone Does My Shirts. Start at their level, and then continue to introduce books that will pique their interest.
- Don’t get discouraged by students who do not read anything, and who fight you on reading in the classroom. Continue to provide book recommendations without forcing them to make a choice. Often they will make a decision on their own once they see that you want them to simply read, and are giving them the autonomy of choosing what they can read.
- Provide a visual of the students’ progress. We put a paper chain around each classroom, with one link in the chain being one book read. Students can then see the entire classes’ progress. We also created a friendly competition between the classes, where each month the class who read the most books keeps the reading trophy that a student made in woodshop in their classroom. It helps the students to own their reading success.
- Be a fangirl (or fanboy) about the books you are reading. Model reading in the classroom. Write the books that you are currently reading on the board. Get excited about the YA books that you enjoyed and share them to the class. Be honest and let the students know if you are struggling with getting through a book that doesn’t interest you. Treat your informal class book discussions as a book club discussion. Students will hopefully see reading as a hobby that deserves time outside of school if you treat it as an enjoyable pastime.
There are still some improvements that I need to work on for this project next year. For example, we have largely stopped writing in our reading notebooks because of time constraints, and are instead sharing our books verbally during the assigned reading block. Next year I would like to more closely link independent reading to my curriculum by creating time for reading workshops that match our Intended Learning Outcomes. I would also like to have time to place all of the student names into my classroom library organizer, and use an ipad to have students scan and check books out of our classroom library. Finally, as always, I need to keep reading more books to give more reading recommendations, so any suggestions are always helpful.