For Those Who Grew up Reading, This May Surprise You
by Robyn Gioia
For many in the older generations, reading was a main source of knowledge and entertainment. We read in school, we got in trouble for reading under our desks, we read on vacation, during summer breaks, in the car, and whenever the time was right. We discussed stories, acted out scenes when we played, and let our imaginations go wild. Authors were revered, new release dates drew faithful readers, and the written word was part of life.
Fast forward to a society with never ending videos and video games.
Many of today’s students don’t read outside of school. The challenge for many educators is to teach their students the value of reading and to hone these skills into lifelong skills.
Over the years I have found a successful model for turning students into readers. At the beginning of the year, I tell them they must have a book to read at all times. If they are early finishers, they are to read. They are to read during independent reading, in the library, after lunch, in the morning before class begins, or anytime an opportunity arises. Their chosen book will travel back and forth between school and home.
Sometimes I assign a monthly genre so they are introduced to the different categories. October is great for mysteries. Genres can also be coordinated with other subjects. Biographies are great for social studies. Fantasy is great for creative writing. Some months I let them choose their own genre. When they are really excited about a book, I let them share snippets with the class, but they aren’t allowed to spoil it for the next reader. Books that are shared are generally snatched up by others.
I used to assign monthly projects, but in the last few years, I have replaced it with writing a daily summary in their journals. The focus may change depending on what we are studying. If we are discussing character development, I might assign identifying character traits. If we are studying imagery, they may search for a passage with rich description. If we are studying emotion, they might identify a scene where emotion was a driving factor.
This really hones their ability to pull out main ideas. Some grumble at first, but once they master the skill, they become pros. The skill to pull out main ideas and prove it with evidence strengthens their understanding in every academic area.
For fun, I decided to take an anonymous poll of my class to see what they really thought of reading. At the beginning of the year, I had kids who bragged about not reading. During our beginning of the year parent conferences, I had parents complain they never saw their kids hold a book.
Since then, reading lexiles have soared along with their abilities. And it’s no wonder. When a person reads everyday, the brain is constantly exposed to plot, proper writing, literary elements, sentence structure, problem solving, and vocabulary to name just a few.
When a guest speaker asked the class the other day who likes to read, every hand shot up. This teacher had to smile.
End of the Year Class Poll
How many minutes do you read each day?
10-20 min. 24% 20-40 min. 30%
40-60 min. 12% 60 min. or more 16%
60 min. to 2 hours or more 15%
What kind of books do you like for pleasure? (25 responses)
Graphic Novels 56%
Realistic Fiction 48%
True Stories 44%
What do you like to see in a character? (25 responses)
Brave, adventurous, funny, a leader, kind, hero, helpful, hardworking, loyalty.
I like when he or she is very bold or a lead taker. I like when they are talking about themselves and stating their opinion. It’s like they are talking to you.
Smart, loyal, show leadership, curious, naive, athletic, sly, nerdy.
Does not accept bullying, cool, loving, determined, extroverted.
List some of your favorite reads: (25 responses)
Eragon, Wings of Fire, Zita the Spacegirl (graphic novels)
Moone Boy, Whatever After, Dr. Seuss
Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Tiles of Apollo
Infinity War Comics, Big Nate, Dog man
Geronimo Stilton and Pokémon
Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Rangers Apprentice
Who Was Books, American Girl, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Harry Potter, Rangers Apprentice, Percy Jackson
Wings of Fire, Percy Jackson, and Last Kids on Earth
big Nate, Percy Jackson, Roman Legends
George’s Cosmic Adventure, The War that Saved My Life, War Horse
Last Kids on Earth, Amulet and Dog man
Percy Jackson, Chronicles of Narnia, The Ghost the Rat and Me
The Hero Two Doors Down, Amulet, and Captain Under Pants
BONE (yes it’s in all caps), Amulet, and the Unwanteds
Doll Bones, Blood on the River, Chains, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Who Was, The Star Fisher, Finding Someplace.
Liesl and Po, Echo, Be Forever,
Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Spaced out
Goddess Girls, Big Nate, Seven Wonders
Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the books by Mike Lupica.
Roller Girl, Swing it Sunny, and Strega Nona
Warriors, Wings of Fire, 5 Worlds
Roller Girl, Swing it Sunny, Strega Nona.
I survived, The Boy who Painted the World