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Reading in the Classroom

Most students can recall a time when they truly enjoyed reading.  For some, this was bedtime as a child, when a parent would read them a story.  For others it was when they first learned to read and devoured books about a big red dog or by Dr. Seuss.  Others may remember a time in the not so distant past, or even the present, but regardless of that time, we can (for the most part) be sure that this was not when a teacher handed them a book.  Sadly, English teachers are the main cause of "turning kids off" of reading.  How can we avoid this without completely disregarding our schools' curriculums or neglecting our desire to inspire?  Below are a few tips to bring a love of literature back into your classroom without giving up your instructional control.

  • Peggy Silva explains that in encouraging students to read it is necessary to erase the boundaries of "teacher" and "student" or "average" and "gifted"--we are all readers and we should be able to share that as a classroom community.
     

  • Book Talks (Follow the link to learn more about these)
     

  • Literature Circles (Follow the link to learn more about these)
     

  • Survey your kids in the beginning of the year--find out if, what, how, and where they like to read and you'll be a step closer to helping them love to do it.
     

  • CLASSROOM LIBRARY!  This cannot be stressed enough.  As is frequently repeated, students become better readers through reading!  Do your best to keep a diverse, ever-growing collection of books in your classroom.  Encourage kids to bring their own to share, or ask for donations from libraries, publishing companies, or your students' families.  Cheap and free books are everywhere if you know where to look!  Display your library proudly and encourage your students to borrow books from it whenever they are looking for something new to read. This allows students to become acquainted with a variety of books and choose what fits them best.  Also fun is to have a separate shelf with students' favorites so students can share good books and show off what they like. 
     

  • Quiet time to read in class.  This does not have to be a daily occurrence, but be sure to give your students time with you to read.  Not every student has time or the proper environment at home to do independent reading.  Also, by providing them time to read, you are showing them that independent reading is important enough to "take time out" for.  If possible, create a comfortable place for your students to read (bean bag or rocking chairs, mats, pillows, etc.).
     

  • Literary Letters-- here's a way to actually encourage students to pass notes!  Have students write literary letters, either to classmates or you the teacher, explaining something they have just read or are currently reading.  This is a way to foster intelligent discussion about literature, and have students share great (or not so great) books with each other.  Students can write their opinions on the form, plot, or themes of the book, and hear back from their classmate or teacher.
     

  • Reading Journals--require students to keep reading journals for the independent reading; ask them to reflect on their thoughts about the book, author, characters, etc. Here is where they can rate books, write about what they would like to read, or ask questions about their reading.  They can turn this in to you whenever you require, or whenever they need something answered. 

Also remember that reading should not be extrinsically rewarded... "The passions aroused by stories and characters are the prize" (Atwell 17).  If we want our students to be successful independent readers, we need to make them understand that they will not get a sticker or candy when they finish each book, but rather the knowledge and experience that the reading will inherently offer. 

 

"There isn't a worksheet, vocabulary building exercise, discussion group, bulletin board display, or metacognitive strategy session in sight.  But there are booktalks, read-alouds, conversations, time, silence, comfort, simple systems of record keeping, and a classroom library that gets bigger and bigger every year, because teachers understand that volume of reading and enthusiasm for reading are keys, and everything else is...frill." ~Nancie Atwell