How Do Students Become Life-long Readers?
Books, books and more books.
You'd think I would've had enough of picture books after so many years of teaching elementary school and raising 5 kids. I haven't. Here's the thing... even my kids still read [and love] the new picture books (and chapter books) I bring home. They have an opinion on all of them, too.
My love of books, especially picture books, began young in the children's section of our local public library. My mom is an avid reader and library user. So, I've been going to the library from the time I was born. I've had a lot of 'favorite' books over the years, but you never forget your first real love.
The Marshmallow Ghosts was the first book I fell in love with.
It wasn't ground breaking, particularly moral instilling or really anything special in and of itself. Most kids my age probably never read it. It just captured MY imagination. So, I checked it out every time it was available for an entire year. My poor mother read that thing 'till she was blue in the face. The Marshmallow Ghosts isn't even in print anymore. [Yes, I've looked.]
In our home library, I have copy of each of my kids first favorite books and my husband's too! But, not mine. So sad. I'd like to read it again just to see if it's what I remember it being. For research purposes. Really. Maybe one day I'll break down and buy an expensive copy online.
I like knowing what it is that makes a book a student's favorite.
What is it that captures someone's imagination? Books we read shape us in small ways. Asking students what their first favorite and current favorite books are is standard procedure for me (and many teachers) in the beginning of the year. Books are a great conversation starter. Kids bond over books they love. Sometimes students don't have ANY favorites. That's telling as well. It just adds another dimention to the discussion.
Students who don't like books or reading become a personal challenge for me, a lover of books. I make it my mission to find one book they connect with. One favorite. It's the toe in the door that can turn into a love of reading if handled right. That's all I need.
So how do we go about creating readers and finding books to match with students? And yes, I am talking about pre-readers too. [If students, especially pre-readers, have no favorites and have never been read to, you have nowhere to go but up.]
Here's my ideas list for creating readers:
- Understand each student's trajectory. When did they learn to read [or does anyone read to them]? What was their first book love? At what age?
- Find out who, if anyone, reads at home. Do they go to the library? Have a library card?
- Know what your students have liked in the past and in what order.
- Exposure. Pour into your students. READ ALOUD a lot. Read a good variety and talk about them together over the course of the day. Ponder, wonder aloud, connect to what you are doing.
- Create lists of class favorites. Vote. Give students a voice and some power over what is read next [most of the time].
- Do book tastings once a month. It's kind of like speed dating with books. Create tables with different genres, authors or topics. Rotate not only at a table, but between tables. Or do a different genre or theme each month. Mix in picture books, poetry and plays.
- Make time for monthly book club or book groups and weekly book talks.
- Bring in [or Skype] authors to talk to students or listen to recorded interviews.
- Be a detective. Take notes about what students choose to read and stick with.
- Amazon. Go to Amazon, put in a book a students have loved and find books to preview that are similar to the ones students seem to be enjoying.
- Figure out what authors students are loving. Do a Goggle search for similar authors.
- Good Reads is a treasure trove of books and opinions from students of all ages. Find kids whose taste matches your students and follow what they are reading. You'll pick up some interesting books you may not have thought of or encountered.
- Teach students to [once in awhile] take a random book off the shelf without looking too deep and give it a go.
- Start a student book review podcast. Take turns hosting and interviewing. Students will find books through their peers, too.
- Model. Talk about what YOU are reading.
- Carve out time in your day to just read. Embed reading into your day wherever you can.
The only sure way to become a reader is to read.
We know that the most successful people in the world are avid readers. They read, on average, a book a week. Studies have shown that avid readers have less stress, more confidence, better decision making skills and are generally more content in life. With all this to gain, surely we can spare at least 10 - 20 minutes to read in our school day.