Monday, February 15, 2016

Igniting the Love of Reading

Not too long ago, I got to participate in some fantastic conversations at ILA15. One of these conversations was how we can ignite the love of reading in even our most resistant students. As Lester Laminak said, " We want students to fall into a story and wallow in it because that is how one discovers a love of reading."

At an Edcamp later, I joined a conversation about sparking a love a reading in middle school readers. At the end of this dialogue, someone asked me if I had these ideas in one place. So here are a few of the ways that my learners and I have found to break down even the last resister to ignite that love of reading...

1- Each Friday, we dedicate time for silent, independent reading. Students can read ANY literature that interests them. We have a large library of comic books, picture books, novels, and nonfiction books. Also, my students can choose to read their classmates' blog posts or articles online. They can read about ANYthing that interests them.

We approach this day as an exciting event. It's true that if you are enthusiastic about something, the students will mirror that excitement. Many students have had that flame stomped out by reading logs, scripted programs, and mandatory AR points. So, we gradually build up their endurance. No pressure. We are reading because it is FUN. It's perfectly acceptable for students to read part of a book and decide not to finish it. Then we have informal book chats. Students take 90 seconds to sell their book to their audience. A peer's endorsement of a book results in a long waiting list for that book in our classroom library and the school library (To be totally transparent, a majority my favorite reads this year have been a direct result of these informal book chats.).

Consequently, our classroom became a place where book chats spontaneously sprouted and dialogues blossomed. When students finished a book, they would go to one another for recommendations. My students reaped so much from this simple practice and eagerly anticipated our time each week.

2- The weekly independent reading and book chats opened students up to conversations about reading and writing. Several of my students even formed their own book clubs during lunch. It quickly became a popular thing to join these student led book discussions. It wasn't long before these groups included students who didn't see themselves as readers.  Therefore, it was no surprise that these lunch time book clubs organically developed into student-run book clubs within our classroom. Students chose books, set group norms, timelines and facilitated their own discussions. (You can read more about that here: Once Upon a Time Student Run-Book Groups.) The students had an authenticity to their reading and their writing.  The results were amazing as students had the opportunity to connect with peers who were in different classes, gaining different perspectives, strengthening their literacy skills, and having...dare I say

3- Since today's students crave immediate feedback from their audience (usually judged by how many likes they've received on Insta posts), each year, we usually engage in several synchronous book chats using a variety of digital tools. What we've discovered is that it really doesn't matter the tool; what matters is that they have the opportunity to talk, in real time, to others about the books that they are reading. They love forming connections with their global peers over their favorite books. Gaining that perspective often pushes them to think beyond themselves to see and gain a respect for others' opinions and ideas. It stretches them to see beyond themselves and their community, discovering their place within a global community of readers and learners. My students have used tools like Twitter, TodaysMeet, Skype, and Google Hangout.

The question that I often get is "How do you find these classes to connect with your learners?" Over the years, I've been able to find connections through various social media outlets. Many of these connections have been through our participation in the Global Read Aloud (You can read more about this program here: One Book to Connect the World.) As a teacher, there is an entire community of fellow educators who are interested in connecting their students through literature. Many of the connections that we've built through the Global Read Aloud become long term connections. My students love the opportunity to build relationships with their global peers in order to share their reading, writing, and ideas.

4- Another way my students connect with one another to share books is through a Book Tasting. Often students will find a book series or an author that they love and they will read every book in that series or by that author and they are stumped for what to read next. Even though we do the informal book chats every week, there are so many book recommendations that go unshared due to time. A book tasting is an activity where students bring in their favorite "unsung hero" book in any genre. They write a recipe teasing that book for their peers. During a book tasting, learners have a blank menu where they can select books that appeal them. Appetizers, for a little taste of something different. Entrees, for something meaty to dig into. Desserts, for a frivolous light-hearted read. 

Our classroom was decorated like a diner. Set on each table was a platter of books. Students would read the recipe, pieces of each book and discuss them with the "dining companions." As the diners were wrapping up their tasting, a new platter of books was delivered to their table. Learners filled their menus with books recommended from their peers. Even my most reticent readers enjoy themselves, finding great reads recommended by their classmates. (You can read about the details of this day here: It's Time for a Book Tasting and Build a Book Buffet.)

I hope that one of these ideas may spark some ideas for you and your readers. I'd love to know what you have found that works for your students. Please share any of the ideas you have found to be successful with your readers.

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