Friday, May 10, 2013

Helping Students Find Great Books

      In his book, Igniting a Passion for Reading,  Steven Layne argues that it is our duty as educators to help students to become lifelong readers. I strongly believe, as he does, that it often only takes one great book that a student can't put down to convert a non-reader into a reader.  It is the single most important job we have as educators to help students each find the book that does it for them.   I have personally witnessed students enter my reading class --swearing that they'd rather eat their own vomit than read a book from cover to cover --later become so enthralled with a text that they were literally bumping into people and furniture because they could not put the book down between passing periods.  This magic only happens when teachers model reading themselves, share the books that they are reading with students, and "book talk" their books each day. Steven Layne suggests putting a display in your classroom with a cover of the book that you are currently reading as a way to spark spontaneous discussions about books.  A colleague of mine lists the books she is reading under her email signature as another way to communicate her love of reading with both student and staff.  Little things like these can make a huge difference for readers and non-readers alike.
       Sharing technology tools like What Should I Read Next?  with students will also help students to locate great books more independently.  The website provides suggestions for books based upon the "favorites" entered by students.  The website  goodreads is another fabulous tool to introduce in your classrooms as a way to remind students that reading can actually be fun. What do we look forward to most after reading a great book ourselves?  Discussing it with others who have read the same title.  We need to facilitate these experiences for our students.  Everything we do in the classroom does not need to be attached to a worksheet.
      The research speaks for itself.  We only need to look at the latest report card put out by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to be reminded of the
fact that reading more often leads to greater literacy gains.  At a conference this fall, Jeffrey Wilhelm, professor and director of the Boise State Writing Project, said something that truly resonated with me:  "Teachers show what they think is important by what they devote their time to in the classroom."  For me, the answer is simple:  If I wish for my students to become skilled readers and critical thinkers, I need to devote time daily to matching students with fabulous books.  A non-reader is just a reader looking to you for that first suggestion.

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