Sunday Salon (08.16)

What I should be doing? (1) Determining fundraiser dates and filling out appropriate paperwork for the school year, (2) packing up miscellaneous items that have been purchased/stored in the house for my classroom, (3) making phone calls to mom to meet up for lunch, (4) working out at the gym, (5) anything else than what I've been doing, which is leisurely sipping coffee and perusing thorough my GReader.

I just finished Naked Reading: Uncovering What Tweens Need to Become Lifelong Readers to ignite my creativity in the classroom. Among other things, author Teri Lesesne (who also blogs about YA books, check her out) shared that, while in the classroom, she set aside every Friday for Free Reading. I've been doing this as well for the past two years, and although at times it can prove to be frustrating trying to cram five days of curriculum into four, I felt it important to allow students to read for pleasure. (Of course, there were measures of accountability, but mainly it was merely telling me a six-word summary about what they read). The goal is obvious, lifelong readers are readers who enjoy reading, not those who are forced to. So, what's the easiest way to get kids to enjoy reading? Allowing them to choose their own books and essentially read for the hell of it.

Naked Reading brings up some scary statistics. For example:

"The average American adult reads fewer than three books per year for pleasure."


"More than 75 percent of teens graduating from high school indicate that they will never read another book again."

How alarming! There is so much to gain from reading, whether that's understanding other cultures (which I have to admit, some of the books that I've been reading has made me realize just how ignorant I am), gaining knowledge about various areas of study (such as sociology, science, psychology, politics), improving vocabulary and writing skills (unsuspectedly even!), living vicariously through character experiences. I mean, you get it right? The list could go on and on and on.

I cringe every year when I open classroom discussion with: "What are your favorite books? What do you like to read? What is your least favorite book?" and here back some variation of "Read? I haven't read a book since my teacher in elementary school read out loud to us!". My classroom is not filled with just reluctant readers (and based on the book's definition, I gather reluctant means those students who will only read assigned texts and nothing further) my students tend to me non existent readers.

There was an interesting discussion over on Becca's blog about the "Secret Club of Readers" that sorta corresponds with my ramblings. What makes some of us readers and others not? Can non-readers turn into voracious readers? Is it as simple as finding 'the right book' for each child to get them hooked? Or even, each adult? And finally, with the increase of hyper-activity and sensory overload via Internet, Video Games, and Television (the three evils?) is reading just to slow and dull for these younger generations?


  1. How old are your students? I still read as regularly to my undergrads as I had done to my Year 6s. I would choose a passage that built up to a climax and then stop. Who wants it? I would often have a waiting list for the books I'd been reading and most students found a writer that they wanted to go back to during the course of the year.

  2. I'm a K-2 librarian and the only thing I want to do is tantalize kids with good books. My only goal. Nothing else matters if kids don't long to read, desperately crave books!

  3. I wish my teachers would have ever given us free reading time...

  4. Finding the right book for a "reluctant" student is an art I am trying to master.

    We read aloud to students every day and they also have free reading time but we are a private Montessori school and are not held to the public school model.

    I'm going to head to Becca's blog and check out the "Secret Club of Readers".

  5. Table Talk - I teach 7th grade. Their ages range from 11 - 13 years old. I do still read out loud to them and do book talks. I find that some do get excited after they see my excitement. Unfortunately there are a lot of readers at my school that are nowhere near grade level. I think this frustrates them.

    Debnance - Oh you have them at such a great age. We need more people out there with your enthusiasm.

    Amanda - Me too!

    Gavin - BTW I love your name!! *sigh* I am envious of the Montessori climate. I really think it works, you know? In public schools there is such an emphasis to standardized tests. It can be so frustrating!

  6. Christina, have you tried some of the wonderful graphic novels cum picture books that are around with your readers who are having difficulties? I'm probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but this has worked for me and for the students I used to train for that age group.

  7. I love the idea of free reading time. I hope you get some of those students hooked!

    When it comes to young people reading less and less, I suspect that peer pressure has something to do with it. Reading is seen as "uncool", "nerdy" and "girly" (which is why there are fewer readers among boys, I think). So kids who do enjoy reading will not have the habit reinforced by their environment, and those who don't won't be willing to give it a chance. I wish I could think of a way to change the way reading is perceived, but unfortunately having adults say "this is actually pretty cool" tends to further convince kids that it's as uncool as it gets :S

  8. Christina - Thanks!

    Table Talk has a great idea. There are some wonderful graphic novels that your students might enjoy.

    We are really lucky, a lot of our middle school students enjoy reading and we are making a strong effort to support students who read below grade level. It also helps to have parents who value literacy.

    I really respect inspired teachers who work in the public school system. I don't know how you do it!

  9. Oh that is so sad! For kids to be nonreaders in middle school! I was a crazy reader, and I loved it. We did have free reading time in reading class. By high school even I was mostly reading only school assigned books (with others in summer time) but middle school was all about free reading!

    I don't have any ideas for encouraging it in school setting. It seems to go back to the home. I like the librarians comment that that is her goal: to get kids to love reading!

  10. I cannot remember how I stumbled upon your blog but was so excited to find it! This particular post reminded me of this NYT article about free reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/books/30reading.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em

    Did you see it? It's always inspiring to hear that kids, tweens and teens are reading for pleasure (even more exciting if they're reading something for *school* that they enjoy!).


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