How is it that for the last eight years I taught reading in a room with no books for independent reading? I’ve been using a prepackaged reading program which has some high interest titles, but I have nothing for the kids to sit and thumb through when they are struck with the desire to read. Why did I accept this as okay?
After attending an amazing session on the Reader-Writer Workshop model at my second NCTE conference in 2014, my heart was pounding with excitement and fear. I was excited because the session helped me to articulate what was missing in the reading classroom. BOOKS. Sounds so simple, right? I think if a noneducator is reading this post, they’re wondering – What? How can a classroom (a reading classroom!) not have books? Ok, slight exaggeration. There’s about 50 titles – most of which I acquired at last year’s ALAN conference. The American Library Association and leading literacy researchers recommend having 1500 titles per classroom. Room B12 doesn’t even come close!
I felt fear because I knew it needed to be fixed. Quickly. It was time to step up. It was time to be brave. I needed to revolutionize the way my reading room helped students develop a love of books.
So, how do a Reading Specialist and two English teachers revolutionize reading in their classrooms? Where the heck do we start?
On my drive home from the NCTE conference I realized I had to start employing Penny Kittle’s philosophy the next morning. I couldn’t waste one more day with the status quo. I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning reading Kittle’s Book Love, figuring it would give me something for immediate use.
Kittle discusses the idea of creating a reading culture inside the classroom and beyond. This is where I would start. Or, I should say restart. Books need to become the main attraction of my instruction. Because there aren’t many books in my classroom, I generally send students to the library to find a book. How scary for a reluctant reader, right? Students often struggle with finding a novel that holds their interest. How can they handle this task on their own? As the reading specialist, I need to introduce them to a variety of texts – easy and complex, fiction and nonfiction – building an excitement and curiosity about what can be discover through reading.
I would simply restart the classroom culture with some formalized book talks. We turned to the back of their reader’s notebook and created a To Be Read Next List. As the students see and hear possible book ideas, they can start to write them down – making their next trip to the library easier. Here is the idea behind Kittle’s
- Take 5 minutes at the start of class to present a possible book choice.
- Show the book.
- Read an excerpt.
- Share why the book matters.
- Have the book available in the classroom library for students to borrow.
Since Thanksgiving, I missed two days of Book Talks because of delayed weather openings. Because independent reading time has always been nonnegotiable in my room, I didn’t want to skimp on reading minutes. Wouldn’t you know – they were begging for a book talk.
I sometimes forget that it is okay to start small. One little 5 minute tweak at the beginning of class has helped to change my class’ reading culture. I’m not as afraid as I was back in November. (R)evolutions do not happen overnight. If I can make a tiny difference in my instruction every day, based on current reading research and best practices, I know the Reading (R)evolution will come. And that is exciting.